Ovaries from a marsupial, the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii), were grafted into a eutherian recipient at known stages of development to ascertain whether normal development would occur. Xenografted ovaries from pouch young < 20 days old, before the onset of meiosis, retained few germ cells and developed tubule-like structures reminiscent of seminiferous cords. Ovaries from 50-day-old pouch young, which contain primordial follicles, developed into antral follicles and corpora lutea within the eutherian host, and produced hormones that stimulated the reproductive tract of the host. The timing of onset of antrum formation and the progress of follicle development were advanced relative to the timing of events in ovaries in situ. Frozen-thawed ovaries from 50-day-old donors developed into preantral follicles, but at a reduced rate and number. This finding shows that gonads of a marsupial species can develop as xenografts in a eutherian, forming large antral follicles. Accelerated follicular development in xenografts provides a potentially valuable model for studying the factors that control follicle development. Assisted reproduction of endangered marsupials may also be feasible using follicles from pouch young grown as xenografts in a eutherian host.
D Coveney, G Shaw, JM Hutson, and MB Renfree
Androgens are essential for testicular descent in eutherian mammals, but little is known about its hormonal control in marsupials. This study reports the effects of daily treatment with the anti-androgen flutamide (10 mg kg(-1)) from day 9 to day 75 after birth on the descent of the testis and inguinal closure in tammar wallabies. By day 75 after birth, the testes of control males had descended and the prostate gland was well developed. The testes of all flutamide-treated males had passed through the inguinal canal and were situated in the base of the scrotum. Three of the nine flutamide-treated males had unilateral inguinal hernias. The size of the inguinal canal, regardless of whether a hernia was present, was significantly wider than that of control males. Development of the prostate gland was significantly inhibited. By day 75 after birth, the phallus was significantly longer in control males than in females, whereas the phallus of flutamide-treated males was similar to that of control females. In flutamide-treated males, the lumbar 1 dorsal root ganglia was feminized and significantly fewer cell bodies expressed calcitonin gene- related peptide. As the anti-androgen treatment resulted in a reduction in the number of calcitonin gene-related peptide-positive cell bodies in the dorsal root ganglion supplying the genitofemoral nerve, the process of inguinal closure in tammar wallabies may be mediated by calcitonin gene-related peptide via the genitofemoral nerve, as indicated in humans. Flutamide treatment inhibited development of the prostate gland and phallus, which are both androgen-dependent structures, but it did not affect the normal descent of the testis, indicating that testicular descent can proceed when the action of androgens is blocked.