Summary. Ovariectomized ewes were immunized against cortisol, oestrogen or progesterone to determine whether steroids of non-ovarian origin occur in sufficient amounts to influence the reproductive system. Ewes immunized against oestrogen (oestrone + oestradiol) had smaller uteri (P < 0·05) and a lower concentration of oestradiol in uterine tissue (P < 0·05), while the adrenal gland was heavier (P < 0·05). In the peripheral plasma of immunized ewes, the concentration of FSH, but not LH, was increased (P < 0·05). Ewes immunized against cortisol also had smaller uteri (P < 0·05) and heavier adrenal glands (P < 0·05), but gonadotrophins and the concentration of oestradiol in the uterus were unaffected. Immunization against progesterone, or injection with synthetic glucocorticoids, did not affect any of the characteristics measured.
We conclude that the adrenal gland of the ewes produced sufficient oestrogen or aromatizable androgen to have significant effects on the reproductive system. In contrast, adrenal production of progesterone did not produce detectable biological effects. Immunization against cortisol did affect the reproductive system, but the mechanism of this action could not be determined.
Keywords: ewe; adrenal; uterus; steroids; gonadotrophins