Summary. To examine the effect of purified LH on development and function of luteal cells, 27 ewes were assigned to: (1) hypophysectomy plus 2 μg ovine LH given i.v. at 4-h intervals from Days 5 to 12 of the oestrous cycle (oestrus = Day 0; Group H + LH; N = 7); (2) hypophysectomy with no LH replacement (Group N–LH; N = 6); (3) control (no hypophysectomy) plus LH replacement as in Group H + LH (Group S + LH; N = 7); (4) control with no LH treatment (Group S–LH; N = 7). Blood samples were collected at 4-h intervals throughout the experiment to monitor circulating concentrations of LH, cortisol and progesterone. On Day 12 of the oestrous cycle corpora lutea were collected and luteal progesterone concentrations, unoccupied receptors for LH and number and sizes of steroidogenic and non-steroidogenic luteal cell types were determined. Corpora lutea from ewes in Group H–LH were significantly smaller (P < 0·05), had lower concentrations of progesterone, fewer LH receptors, fewer small luteal cells and fewer non-steroidogenic cells than did corpora lutea from ewes in Group S–LH. The number of large luteal cells was unaffected by hypophysectomy, but the sizes of large luteal cells, small luteal cells and fibroblasts were reduced. LH replacement in hypophysectomized ewes maintained luteal weight and the numbers of small steroidogenic and non-steroidogenic luteal cells at levels intermediate between those observed in ewes in Groups L–LH and S–LH. In Group H + LH ewes, luteal and serum concentrations of progesterone, numbers of luteal receptors for LH, and the sizes of all types of luteal cells were maintained. Numbers of small steroidogenic and non-steroidogenic cells were also increased by LH in hypophysectomized ewes.
In Exp. II, 14 ewes were assigned to: (1) sham hypophysectomy with no LH replacement therapy (Group S–LH; N = 5); (2) sham hypophysectomy with 40 μg ovine LH given i.v. at 4-h intervals from Day 5 to Day 12 of the oestrous cycle (Group S + LH; N = 5); and (3) hypophysectomy plus LH replacement therapy (Group H + LH; N = 4). Experimental procedures were similar to those described for Exp. I. Treatment of hypophysectomized ewes with a larger dose of LH maintained luteal weight, serum and luteal progesterone concentrations and the numbers of steroidogenic and non-steroidogenic luteal cells at control levels. Based on the results of the two experiments it is concluded that: (1) LH has important trophic actions for steroidogenic and non-steroidogenic luteal cells; and (2) LH appears to be the only pituitary gonadotrophin required to maintain luteal function in ewes hypophysectomized during the oestrous cycle.
Keywords: sheep; LH; luteal cells