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G. W. Asher, A. M. Day and G. K. Barrell

Summary. Entire bucks (N = 7) exhibited pronounced liveweight gains over spring and summer months (October–February), to reach a peak mean weight of 59·8 kg, and rapid liveweight losses over the rutting period (April–May) with a minimum mean liveweight of 54·2 kg. Mean neck girth and serum testosterone levels increased during late summer (January–March) and peaked at 387 mm and 12 ng/ml respectively immediately before the onset of the rut (April). Thereafter both measures declined during winter and spring months (June–December). Bucks castrated prepubertally (N = 11) exhibited similar but less pronounced changes in mean liveweight and neck girth, in the absence of any change in testosterone secretion. Peak mean testicular diameter of entire bucks (39 mm) occurred immediately before the rut and was followed by testicular regression over winter and spring months (June–November), such that the testes attained their minimum mean size of 18 mm diameter in early summer (November). Motile spermatozoa were absent from ejaculates collected in summer (November 1983, 1984; January 1984). However, ejaculates collected pre-rut (late March), immediately post-rut (June) and in early spring (September) contained successively increasing numbers of motile spermatozoa.

A further 14 polled, entire bucks were given orally 5 mg (N = 7; Group A) or 20 mg (N = 7; Group B) melatonin at 15:30h daily from 1 December 1983 to 14 January 1984 (45 days). Seven control bucks (Group C) received vehicle ration only. The measurements taken for bucks in Groups A and B were not significantly different (P > 0·1) on any sampling date and the data for these 2 groups were pooled. Mean serum testosterone concentrations and mean ejaculate volume were not significantly different between melatonin-treated and control bucks on any sampling date, although other measures exhibited significant differences (P < 0·05) at various treatment or post-treatment dates: melatonin-treated bucks showed a transiently greater increase in neck muscle development during and immediately after treatment, a slight retardation of liveweight gain between 45 and 75 days after treatment, an earlier peak in maximum mean testicular diameter and an earlier onset of sperm presence in ejaculates.

Open access

Panayiota Ploutarchou, Pedro Melo, Anthony J Day, Caroline M Milner and Suzannah A Williams

During follicle development, oocytes secrete factors that influence the development of granulosa and cumulus cells (CCs). In response to oocyte and somatic cell signals, CCs produce extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules resulting in cumulus expansion, which is essential for ovulation, fertilisation, and is predictive of oocyte quality. The cumulus ECM is largely made up of hyaluronan (HA), TNF-stimulated gene-6 (TSG-6, also known as TNFAIP6), pentraxin-3 (PTX3), and the heavy chains (HCs) of serum-derived inter-α-inhibitor proteins. In contrast to other in vivo models where modified expansion impairs fertility, the cumulus mass of C1galt1 Mutants, which have oocyte-specific deletion of core 1-derived O-glycans, is modified without impairing fertility. In this report, we used C1galt1 Mutant (C1galt1 FF:ZP3Cre) and Control (C1galt1 FF) mice to investigate how cumulus expansion is affected by oocyte-specific deletion of core 1-derived O-glycans without adversely affecting oocyte quality. Mutant cumulus–oocyte complexes (COCs) are smaller than Controls, with fewer CCs. Interestingly, the CCs in Mutant mice are functionally normal as each cell produced normal levels of the ECM molecules HA, TSG-6, and PTX3. However, HC levels were elevated in Mutant COCs. These data reveal that oocyte glycoproteins carrying core 1-derived O-glycans have a regulatory role in COC development. In addition, our study of Controls indicates that a functional COC can form provided all essential components are present above a minimum threshold level, and thus some variation in ECM composition does not adversely affect oocyte development, ovulation or fertilisation. These data have important implications for IVF and the use of cumulus expansion as a criterion for oocyte assessment.