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MA Beg, C Meira, DR Bergfelt and OJ Ginther

Follicle deviation is characterized by continued growth of the largest (developing dominant) follicle and reduced growth of the smaller (subordinate) follicles. The aim of the present study was to test the following hypotheses: (1). oestradiol contributes to the depression of circulating FSH encompassing follicle deviation and (2). oestradiol plays a role in the initiation of deviation. Heifers were treated with progesterone (n = 5) or antiserum against oestradiol (n = 7) or given no treatment (control; n = 6). On the basis of previous studies, progesterone treatment would decrease LH and thereby the circulatory and intrafollicular concentrations of oestradiol and the antiserum would reduce the availability of oestradiol. Progesterone was given in six 75 mg injections at 12 h intervals beginning when the largest follicle of wave 1 first reached >or=5.7 mm (t = 0 h). Oestradiol antiserum (100 ml) was given in a single injection at t = 12 h. Follicles of the wave were defined as F1 (largest) and F2, according to the diameter at each examination. Blood samples were collected at 12 h intervals during t = 0-72 h. Treatment with progesterone lowered the circulatory concentrations of LH by 12 h after the start of treatment (P < 0.05), and concentrations remained low compared with those of controls during the treatment period. Treatment with oestradiol antiserum had no effect on LH. Both progesterone and the antiserum treatments increased the FSH concentrations compared with controls (P < 0.05), which supports the first hypothesis. The interval from t = 0 h to the beginning of deviation was longer in the progesterone- (51.0 +/- 7.6 h; P < 0.06) and antiserum (51.4 +/- 6.3 h; P < 0.05)-treated groups than in the controls (38.0 +/- 3.7 h), which supports the second hypothesis. There was no difference among groups in the diameters of F1 and F2 at deviation. Reduced diameter (P < 0.05 or P < 0.06) of both F1 and F2 occurred in both the progesterone- and antiserum-treated groups at t = 36 h and 48 h, compared with controls. Follicle retardation occurred in both the progesterone- and antiserum-treated groups despite the high FSH concentrations, whereas LH was altered only in the progesterone-treated group. Therefore, the follicle effect can be attributed to inadequate intrafollicular oestradiol. This interpretation implies a functional local role for oestradiol in the deviation process, independent of the systemic negative effect on FSH.

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OJ Ginther, DR Bergfelt, MA Beg and K Kot

Progesterone was used to reduce LH concentrations starting at the time when the largest follicle was > or = 5.7 mm in diameter or well before the expected start of follicle deviation (largest follicle > or = 8.5 mm in diameter). Plasma concentrations of LH, FSH and oestradiol were determined at 4 h intervals in control and progesterone-treated heifers (n = 8 per group). Concentrations of LH were lower (P < 0.05) in the progesterone-treated group, reflecting an absence of the transient increase in LH concentrations that encompasses follicle deviation. An increase in oestradiol and a continued decrease in FSH occurred at the start of follicle deviation in the control cows but not in the treated heifers. In a second experiment, follicular fluid of the two largest follicles of control and progesterone-treated heifers was sampled at the expected start of deviation (n = 8--10 per group). The concentrations of oestradiol, but not androstenedione and free insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), in follicular fluid were higher (P < 0.001) in the largest follicle than in the second largest follicle. Progesterone treatment reduced (P < or = 0.02) the concentrations of all three factors in follicular fluid and increased (P < 0.05) the concentrations of insulin-like growth factor binding protein 2 (IGFBP-2). These results confirm that oestradiol contributes to the continued decrease in FSH concentrations after the start of follicle deviation. Prevention of the transient LH increase, the oestradiol increase and the continued FSH decrease did not significantly alter the mean time or follicle diameters characteristic of expected follicle deviation. However, in some treated individuals (three of eight), the observed follicle deviation was delayed. In addition, these results indicate that the secretion of oestradiol into the circulation and the increase in oestradiol and IGF-I and decrease in IGFBP-2 concentrations in the follicular fluid at the start of deviation are functions of the transient increase in LH concentrations that encompasses follicle deviation.

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OJ Ginther, BG Woods, C Meira, MA Beg and DR Bergfelt

Follicle growth and circulating hormone concentrations were compared between an interovulatory interval and the first 60 days of the anovulatory season in pony mares. Daily observations were made from November of three groups: (i) ablation of follicles of >/=6 mm in diameter at day 10 after an ovulation that initiated an interovulatory interval, as determined retrospectively (ovulatory group, n=8), (ii) ablation at day 10 after the last ovulation of the year (anovulatory-10 group, n=6); and (iii) ablation at day 60 after the last ovulation of the year (anovulatory-60 group, n=6). Follicular waves were defined as major (dominant follicle) and minor (no dominant follicle). The percentage of mares with major waves after ablation for the ovulatory, anovulatory-10 and anovulatory-60 groups was 100, 33 and 0%, respectively, and the percentage with minor waves was 0, 67 and 100%, respectively. Minor waves were also detected in 83% of anovulatory mares between day 20 and day 60. Growth of the largest follicle was similar for major waves and minor waves but only until the beginning of deviation in the major waves. FSH surges after ablation were similar for all groups and for surges detected during days 20-60. Concentrations of LH were greater in association with major waves than with minor waves. Both diameter of the largest follicle and LH concentrations for minor waves were greater after ablation at day 10 after the last ovulation of the year than after ablation at day 60. The results of this study indicate that major follicular waves developed in some mares early in the anovulatory season and that minor waves developed throughout the first 2 months. Despite similarities in the wave-stimulating FSH surge, differences in follicle growth occurred and were attributable, on a temporal basis, to differences in LH concentrations. A minor wave developed into a major wave when the largest follicle reached a diameter characteristic of the beginning of deviation in the presence of an adequate LH stimulus for continued growth of a dominant follicle.

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OJ Ginther, DR Bergfelt, MA Beg and K Kot

The intervals between emergence of follicular waves 1 (first wave of an oestrous cycle) and 2, and between the associated FSH surges (surges 1 and 2), were studied in control (n = 7) and recombinant bovine (rb)FSH-treated (n = 7) heifers. The expected start of the deviation in follicle diameter between the two largest follicles of wave 1 was defined as the day on which the largest follicle reached 8.5 mm (day 0). In the control heifers, circulating concentrations of FSH decreased and oestradiol increased between day 0 and day 1.5 or day 2.0 in a reciprocal relationship. The opposite reciprocal relationship between an FSH increase and an oestradiol decrease occurred during the next 3 days. This temporal result is consistent with a negative systemic effect of oestradiol on FSH at this time. rbFSH was administered in a dosage regimen that was expected to result in a similarity between FSH surge 2 in the rbFSH-treated group and surge 2 in the control group. On average, surge 2 and wave 2 occurred approximately 2 days earlier in the rbFSH-treated group than in the control group, and characteristics of the FSH surge and follicular wave were similar (no significant differences) between groups. These results support the hypothesis that low circulating FSH concentrations after the deviation in follicle diameter control the interval to emergence of the subsequent follicular wave. However, in one of seven rbFSH-treated heifers, the largest follicle from the apparent stimulation of rbFSH reached only 5.7 mm; therefore, the possibility of involvement of additional mechanisms cannot be dismissed.