The bovine high fecundity allele, Trio, results in the occurrence of multiple ovulations and is characterized by antral follicles that develop slower and acquire ovulatory capacity at smaller sizes. This study provides novel information on the effect of the Trio allele on early folliculogenesis.
The bovine high fecundity allele, Trio, causes overexpression in granulosa cells (GCs) of SMAD6, an inhibitor of BMP15-activated SMAD signalling. Furthermore, the Trio allele results in antral follicles that develop slower, acquire ovulatory capacity at smaller sizes, and have three-fold greater ovulation rate compared to half-sib non-carriers. The present study was designed to determine preantral follicle numbers and size in Trio carrier and non-carrier cattle testing the hypothesis that inhibition of SMAD signalling would alter preantral follicle activation and/or growth. Ovarian tissues from Trio carrier (n = 12) and non-carrier (n = 12) heifers were obtained by laparotomy after follicle wave synchronization. Follicle numbers and dimensions were determined for each stage of development (primordial, transitional, primary, and secondary) from paraffin-embedded sections. There were no differences in the number of primordial, transitional, or secondary follicles or in antral follicle count, circulating AMH, or ovarian volume between carriers and non-carriers. Trio carriers had ~2.5-fold greater (P < 0.01) number of primary follicles than non-carriers, and transitional and primary follicles were larger (~1.2-fold; P < 0.1) in Trio carriers. Oocyte volume of primordial and transitional follicles was not different between genotypes; however, oocytes were larger (P < 0.05) in primary (~1.3-fold) and secondary (~1.8-fold) follicles for Trio carriers. Granulosa cell numbers were not different (P > 0.3) between carriers and non-carriers, irrespective of the stage of development. These results suggest that, after primordial follicle activation, follicles in Trio carrier cattle have slower progression through the primary stage, hence the larger oocyte and greater number of primary follicles.