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SE Bae, BM Corcoran and ED Watson

Little is known about neurogenic regulation of uterine contractility in mares. The present study investigated the distribution of adrenergic and peptidergic nerves in the mare uterus. Samples from the uterine horn, body and cervix were collected from 18 cyclic mares for immunohistochemistry. The uterus was well supplied with adrenergic nerves. A large number of tyrosine hydroxylase- and dopamine beta-hydroxylase-immunoreactive nerve bundles and fibres were present in the myometrium and endometrium in all regions of the uterus and cervix. These adrenergic nerve bundles and fibres travelled parallel to the muscle layers and were often associated with blood vessels. The density of peptidergic nerves was less than that of adrenergic nerves, but the pattern of distribution was similar. Neuropeptide Y-immunoreactive nerve fibres were the most abundant, whereas vasoactive intestinal polypeptide- and calcitonin gene-related peptide-immunoreactive nerve fibres were less frequently seen. Substance P-immunoreactive nerve fibres were the most sparse. Peptidergic nerves were distributed among the smooth muscle layers and near endometrial glands and were often associated with blood vessels in all regions of the uterus. The density of peptidergic nerve fibres was similar in the uterine horn and body but was slightly denser in the cervix. These findings indicate that uterine innervation may have an important role in controlling reproductive functions in mares.

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E D Watson, S-E Bae, R Thomassen, S R M Thomson, K Woad and D G Armstrong

The period between seasonal anoestrus and cyclicity is characterized in many mares by cyclical growth and regression of large dominant follicles. The insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system plays a key role in follicular growth and regression; therefore, we hypothesized that changes in the IGF system and its binding proteins would modulate onset of cyclicity in mares. Ovaries were obtained from pony mares on the day after detection of an actively growing 30 mm transitional anovulatory follicle, and also at the second or third oestrus of the breeding season on the day after the preovulatory follicle reached 30 mm in diameter. Size of dominant follicles at the time of removal was similar in transition (32 ± 0.8 mm) and at oestrus (34 ± 0.6 mm). IGF-I mRNA was present in granulosa cells, with low thecal expression, whereas IGF-II mRNA was confined to the theca layer. Expression of IGF-I and -II mRNAs, and intrafollicular concentrations of oestradiol, were lower (P < 0.01; paired t test) in transitional anovulatory follicles than in preovulatory follicles. Messenger RNA encoding IGFBP-2 was present in both theca and granulosa layers. Steady-state concentrations of mRNA encoding IGFBP-2 mRNA increased (P < 0.001) in theca in preovulatory follicles. Intrafollicular concentrations of IGFBP-2 were higher (P < 0.001) in transitional than in preovulatory follicles. The similarity in circulating concentrations of IGF-I in transitional and cyclic mares, suggested that the somatotrophic axis is not involved in transition from anovulatory to ovulatory cycles. The results suggest that the increased expression of IGF-I and -II mRNAs in preovulatory follicles, along with the decrease in IGFBP-2 concentrations, could increase the bioavailability of intrafollicular IGF in large follicles during the breeding season, and support our hypothesis that intrafollicular IGF bioavailability must exceed a threshold level before ovulation can occur.