Summary. Ten fertile feral mares and 6 domestic horses (4 fertile mares, 1 infertile mare, 1 gelding) were immunized with heat-solubilized pig zonae pellucidae by 4 injections equivalent to 2000 or 5000 zonae each at 2–4-week intervals and a booster injection of 20 000 zonae 6–10 months after the last of the initial inoculations. The immune response was reflected by high antibody levels as measured by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) using immobilized pig zona antigen. In-vivo inhibition of fertility occurred in 12 (86%) of the 14 fertile mares studied and persisted for a minimum of 7 months. Repeated mating of the fertile domestic mares resulted in conception when anti-pig zona antibody concentrations had decreased from initial peak absorbance ratios (>1·0) to relatively lower levels (0·64 or less with one exception). An indirect immunofluorescence assay, revealed a considerably lower cross-reactive antibody titre with horse oocytes as compared to pig oocytes. Clinical, endocrinological and histological analyses of the ovaries and their function following regained fertility after immunization revealed no abnormalities. One mare remained infertile.
Keywords: horse; contraceptive vaccine; zona pellucida; antibodies; heteroimmunization.