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J. G. Gong, G. Baxter, T. A. Bramley and R. Webb

Treatment with recombinant bovine somatotrophin (bST) can enhance the development of ovarian antral follicles in cattle. The underlying mechanism was examined further by performing a dose–response study to investigate the effects of bST on peripheral concentrations of somatotrophin, insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), insulin, FSH and LH, and ovarian follicle development. Twenty mature heifers were randomly divided into five groups and injected s.c. at 6 h intervals for 7 days with 25% of one of the following daily doses of bST: 0, 3.13, 6.25, 12.5 or 25.0 mg. Ovarian follicular dynamics were monitored by real-time ultrasonography. Blood samples were collected daily during the experiment, and every 15 min for 8 h on days 1 and 5 of bST treatment. Treatment with bST increased (P < 0.01) peripheral concentrations of somatotrophin in a dose-dependent manner. Serum concentrations of both IGF-I and insulin were significantly (P < 0.01) increased in all heifers given 12.5 or 25.0 mg bST per day. Peripheral concentrations of IGF-I and insulin in all animals in the group given 3.13 mg bST and two heifers in the group given 6.25 mg bST were not different from those in the control group, while concentrations in the other two heifers given 6.25 mg bST were significantly (P <0.01) higher. The number of ovarian follicles < 5 mm in diameter was increased (P < 0.05) in response to bST, but only in heifers (n = 10) with significantly increased serum concentrations of IGF-I and insulin. There were no effects of treatment on peripheral concentrations of FSH, LH and progesterone, and on the numbers of follicles > 5 mm in diameter. In conclusion, this study has demonstrated in vivo that the effect of treatment with bST on ovarian follicle development appears to be mediated through an increase in circulating IGF-I or insulin concentrations, rather than via an alteration in the secretion of pituitary gonadotrophins or a direct effect of bST on ovarian follicles.

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J. G. Gong, T. A. Bramley and R. Webb

The effects of recombinant bovine somatotrophin (BST) on the dynamics of ovarian follicular growth and development and peripheral insulin concentrations were investigated. Initially, studies were carried out in a population of Hereford × Friesian heifers to validate the ultrasound technique. In the first experiment, 12 heifers were injected daily with either 25 mg BST or vehicle for two oestrous cycles, and the effects on follicular dynamics and peripheral insulin were determined. In a second experiment, 12 heifers were given a single injection of 10 ml saline or 320 mg BST in a sustained-release formulation to examine the temporal relationships between growth hormone (GH), insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), insulin and the number of follicles. The validation studies demonstrated that small follicles (<5 mm in diameter) could be clearly detected by real-time ultrasound, and that 75% (9 of 12) of heifers showed three waves of dominant follicle development during the oestrous cycle, whereas the remainder had only two waves. The changes in the numbers of follicles of the three size categories (<5 mm, small; 5−10 mm, medium-sized and > 10 mm, large) also displayed a wave pattern similar to that of the dominant follicle, with a marked reduction in the number of subordinate follicles as the dominant follicle grew and reached its maximum size. In Expt 1, BST treatment increased the number of small follicles and caused a rise in peripheral insulin concentrations (P < 0.01) throughout the treatment period. However, there was no effect of BST on the timing for the pattern of follicular waves during the oestrous cycle, nor on the number of medium-sized or large follicles at each follicular wave. In the second experiment, the temporal change in the number of small follicles following BST treatment was positively correlated with the changes in the peripheral IGF-1 and insulin concentrations. IGF-1 and insulin concentrations increased 48 h after BST injection, and the number of small follicles had increased 24 h later and remained higher during the period when peripheral IGF-1 and insulin concentrations were high. These results demonstrate first, that the number of small follicles was reduced as the dominant follicle grew and reached its maximum size and second that BST treatment could enhance the recruitment of small follicles in heifers. This increase in the number of small follicles was positively correlated with peripheral IGF-1 and insulin concentrations. Third, BST did not affect the turnover of follicular waves, nor the inhibitory action of the dominant follicle on its subordinate follicles. We conclude that BST affects the recruitment of small follicles by increasing peripheral concentrations of IGF-1, or of insulin or both concentrations. Moreover, the effect of BST on the small follicle population was not mediated through the mechanism(s) by which the dominant follicle inhibits subordinate follicles.

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J. G. Gong, T. A. Bramley, C. G. Gutierrez, A. R. Peters and R. Webb

The effect of chronic treatment with a gonadotrophin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRHa) on ovarian function in cattle was investigated by injecting heifers i.m. twice a day with saline, 5 μg GnRHa (Buserelin) or 10 μg GnRHa (n = 7) for 21 days. Blood samples were taken twice a day during the treatment period, and then three times a day for 7 days and once daily for a further 4 days. Frequent samples were also collected on day 1, day 10 and day 21 of treatment. The ovaries of all heifers were examined daily using real-time ultrasonography throughout the experimental period. No significant differences in the response were observed between two doses of GnRHa. The first GnRHa injection produced a large LH and FSH surge and this acute response was still present by day 21 of treatment, but both the magnitude and duration of response were significantly attenuated (P < 0.01). After an initial increase, LH returned to the basal concentration, which was maintained until the termination of treatment, when concentrations increased significantly, with a preovulatory surge occurring approximately 6 days later. Peripheral FSH concentrations during the oestrous cycle in control animals displayed a pattern of three waves, each of which closely preceded a wave of follicular development. Concentrations of FSH in GnRHa-treated heifers showed a normal pattern for the first wave after the start of treatment. During the next wave, concentrations increased and remained at the peak values until about 4 days after the end of treatment. An additional ovulation was induced in 11 of 14 GnRHa-treated heifers within 2–3 days of the start of treatment, and a significant (P < 0.05) increase in serum progesterone concentrations was detected 2 days later. All GnRHa-treated heifers then showed a normal follicular wave, with the development and regression of a dominant follicle. The dominant follicles from the next wave grew to only 7–9 mm in diameter and remained at this size until the end of treatment, when they resumed growth, ovulated approximately 7 days later and formed corpora lutea. We conclude that chronic treatment of heifers with GnRHa for 3 weeks suppresses pulsatile secretion of LH and blocks the development of dominant follicles beyond 9 mm in diameter, preventing the preovulatory LH surge and ovulation. However, GnRHa did not suppress the secretion of FSH within the 3 week treatment period. The maintenance of the dominant follicles for an extended period should provide an ideal model to study the control of follicular atresia in cattle in vivo.

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HA Garverick, G Baxter, J Gong, DG Armstrong, BK Campbell, CG Gutierrez and R Webb

A study was conducted to determine the effects of FSH and bovine somatotrophin on the expression of mRNA encoding the gonadotrophin receptors and steroidogenic enzymes in ovarian follicles of cattle rendered hypogonadotrophic by treatment with a GnRH agonist. Hereford x Friesian heifers were allotted into two pretreatment groups: controls (n = 10) and GnRH agonist-treated (n = 20). Ovaries of control cows were removed on day 2 of the first follicular wave after synchronized oestrus. GnRH agonist-treated heifers were given either FSH or no FSH. FSH was infused at 50 microg h(-1) for 48 h. Ovaries in GnRH agonist-treated heifers were removed at the end of exogenous hormone treatment. The control, GnRH agonist and GnRH agonist plus FSH treatment groups were divided further into bovine somatotrophin or no bovine somatotrophin treatments (n = 5 per treatment). Bovine somatotrophin (25 mg day(-1) by s.c. injection) was administered for 3 days. Ovaries were scanned once a day by ultrasonography. Blood samples for hormone measurements were collected three times a day from oestrus until the time of removal of ovaries. Expression of mRNAs for the FSH and LH receptors and cytochrome P450 side-chain cleavage (P450scc), cytochrome P450 17alpha-hydroxylase (P450c17) and cytochrome P450 aromatase (P450arom) enzymes was localized by in situ hybridization and quantified by image analysis. Ovarian follicular growth was arrested at < or = 4.5 mm in diameter in GnRH agonist-treated heifers. There was no effect of bovine somatotrophin on follicular dynamics, gonadotrophin secretion or expression of mRNA for either the gonadotrophin receptors or steroidogenic enzymes. Infusion of FSH to GnRH agonist-treated heifers increased FSH concentrations in serum to the physiological concentrations observed in controls and stimulated growth of follicles to a size similar (5.5-8.0 mm in diameter) to recruited follicles in control cows. FSH induced mRNA expression of P450scc and P450arom in granulosa cells of follicles at a smaller size (< or = 4.5 mm in diameter) than in controls and increased (P < 0.001) expression in larger (> 4.5 mm in diameter) follicles. Expression of mRNAs for P450scc and P450c17 increased (P < 0.001) with increasing follicle size and was higher (P < 0.01) in theca cells of GnRH agonist plus FSH-treated heifers than in the other groups. There were no treatment differences in expression of FSH receptor in granulosa cells or LH receptor in theca cells, but expression of both receptors increased with follicle size. There was no expression of LH receptor in the granulosa cells of cows from any treatment group. In conclusion, FSH treatment in GnRH agonist-treated heifers induced similar changes in follicular growth to those observed during the first follicular wave, but despite similar peak concentrations, prolonged exposure to high FSH induced precocious expression of mRNAs for P450scc and P450arom in granulosa cells from small follicles and markedly upregulated expression of these enzymes in granulosa cells from recruited follicles. The results of this study demonstrate the key role that FSH plays in the induction of follicular growth and differentiation.