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Samarendra N. Baksi and A. D. Kenny

Vitamin D3 is metabolized first in the liver, producing 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 which is then further hydroxylated at the 1-position in the kidney, producing the hormonal form 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (Holick & DeLuca, 1974). Kenny (1976) has demonstrated that when kidney homogenates of Japanese quail were incubated with 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 birds with a calcified egg in the shell gland produce predominantly 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, whereas those without an egg produce mainly 24,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3.

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M A Fenwick, S Llewellyn, R Fitzpatrick, D A Kenny, J J Murphy, J Patton, and D C Wathes

Negative energy balance (NEB) during early lactation in dairy cows leads to an altered metabolic state that has major effects on the production of IGF family members. Low IGF-I concentrations are associated with poor fertility and therefore we aimed to determine whether NEB exerts a direct effect on IGF expression in the postpartum oviduct. Multiparous Holstein cows were allocated to two treatments (each n=6) designed using differential feeding and milking regimes to produce either mild NEB (MNEB) or severe NEB (SNEB). Animals were slaughtered in week 2 of lactation when divergent metabolic profiles were evident. Oviducts were collected for RNA analysis by real-time RT-PCR and in situ hybridisation. Quantitative measures in oviduct gene expression were obtained for all members of the IGF family (IGF-I/II, IGF-binding proteins (IGFBP) 1–6 and receptors for IGF types 1 and 2), insulin A/B, GH, glucocorticoid and oestrogen α/β. Expression of IGFBP-2 and IGFBP-6 (both of which have a high affinity for IGF-II) was decreased in SNEB relative to MNEB (P<0.05). No other gene was altered by NEB, but IGF-II, IGFBP-3, IGFBP-5 and IGFBP-6 all showed differential expression in different regions of the oviduct. These results indicate that, in addition to low circulating IGF-I after calving, NEB may also influence IGF availability in the oviduct indirectly through changes in specific IGFBP expression. It is possible that the predicted increased signalling by IGF-II may perturb embryo development, contributing to the high rates of embryonic mortality in dairy cows.

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S Llewellyn, R Fitzpatrick, D A Kenny, J J Murphy, R J Scaramuzzi, and D C Wathes

Post partum negative energy balance (NEB) in dairy cattle is associated with a delayed return to ovarian cyclicity and reduced fertility. This study compared the IGF system of pre-recruitment ovarian follicles between cows in mild (n = 6) or severe (n = 6) NEB during early lactation. Ovaries were collected in the second week post partum, when circulating concentrations of IGF-I and glucose were lower (P < 0.01) in severe NEB cows. mRNA expression for IGF-II, type 1 IGF receptor (IGF-1R) and IGF-binding proteins (IGFBP)-1 to IGFBP-6 was determined by in situ hybridisation in individual follicles using radiolabelled oligonucleotide probes. Follicles were classified as very small (1–2.5 mm) or small (2.5–5 mm) and healthy or atretic. Relative mRNA concentrations were measured as optical density (OD) units using image analysis. Thecal IGF-II mRNA expression was highest in very small, healthy follicles (P < 0.05). Granulosa cell IGFBP-2 was the only component to change with EB status, with higher mRNA expression in mild compared with severe NEB cows (P < 0.05). IGFBP-1 and IGFBP-3 mRNA expression were undetectable. IGF-1R, IGFBP-4 and IGFBP-5 mRNA expression were not significantly altered by follicle size or health, but IGFBP-5 tended to increase in atretic follicles. The pattern of IGFBP-6 mRNA expression in theca paralleled that of IGF-II mRNA, with higher (P < 0.05) levels in healthy, very small follicles. In conclusion, the reduced expression of IGFBP-2 mRNA in severe NEB cows may alter the bioavailability of circulating IGF-I and locally produced IGF-II to modulate the pre-recruitment stages of follicles required to maintain normal post partum ovarian cyclicity.

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A M English, D A Kenny, C J Byrne, H Sauerwein, C Urh, M A Crowe, C Staub, S M Waters, and S Fair

The objective of this study was to examine the effect of nutrition during the first 18 weeks of life on the physiological and transcriptional functionality of the hypothalamic (arcuate nucleus region), anterior pituitary and testes in Holstein–Friesian bull calves. Holstein–Friesian bull calves with a mean (±s.d.) age and bodyweight of 19 (±8.2) days and 47.5 (±5.3) kg, respectively, were assigned to either a HIGH (n = 10) or LOW (n = 10) plane of nutrition, to achieve an overall target growth rate of 1.2 or 0.5 kg/day, respectively. At 126 ± 1.1 days of age, all calves were euthanised. Animal performance (weekly) and systemic concentrations of metabolic (monthly) and reproductive hormones (fortnightly) were assessed. Testicular histology, targeted gene and protein expression of the arcuate nucleus region, anterior pituitary and testes were also assessed using qPCR and immunohistochemistry, respectively. The expression of candidate genes in testicular tissue from post pubertal 19-month-old Holstein–Friesian bulls (n = 10) was compared to that of the 18-week-old calves. Metabolite and metabolic hormone profiles generally reflected the improved metabolic status of the calves on the HIGH (P < 0.001). Calves offered a HIGH plane of nutrition were heavier at slaughter (P < 0.001), had larger testes (P < 0.001), larger seminiferous tubule diameter (P < 0.001), more mature spermatogenic cells (P < 0.001) and more Sertoli cells (P < 0.05) in accordance with both morphological and transcriptional data. Overall, testicular gene expression profiles suggested a more mature stage of development in HIGH compared with LOW and were more closely aligned to that of mature bulls. Ghrelin receptor was the only differentially expressed gene between LOW and HIGH calves in either the anterior pituitary (P < 0.05) or arcuate nucleus region of the hypothalamus (P < 0.10) and was upregulated in LOW for both tissues. This study indicates that an enhanced plane of nutrition during early calfhood favourably alters the biochemical regulation of the hypothalamus–anterior pituitary–testicular axis, advancing testicular development and hastening spermatogenesis.