Summary. Ovarian or uterine lymph was collected continuously for periods of up to 25 days from 16 cows cannulated at stages of pregnancy ranging from 96 to 278 days post coitum. Blood samples were taken acutely from the ovarian and uterine veins during surgery and periodically from the jugular vein during the course of lymph collection. The flow rate and cell content of lymph was measured and blood and lymph plasma samples were analysed for progesterone, pregnenolone, pregnenolone sulphate, androstenedione, testosterone, oestrone, oestrone sulphate, oestradiol-17β, prostaglandin (PG) F-2α, total protein and albumin. There was a high flow rate of protein-rich lymph from luteal ovaries with rates up to 101·7 ml/h occurring in individual lymphatics over short periods. Peripheral ovarian and uterine lymph contained a low concentration of cells (mean < 105 cells/ml) comprising about 82–87% lymphocytes, 11–14% macrophages and monocytes and 2–4% other cells. At all stages of pregnancy, the concentration of progestagens and androgens was higher in ovarian lymph than in uterine lymph or blood plasma. The differences were greatest for progesterone and androstenedione which occurred at 200-fold and 60-fold greater concentration respectively in ovarian lymph than in jugular plasma. When serial 10 min samples were collected over a 12-h period, the concentration and output of progesterone in ovarian lymph varied in a phasic manner, ranging from 3·5 to 7·6 μm and from 31·7 to 293·1 nmol/h respectively. There was a positive correlation between the output of progesterone in lymph and the progesterone concentration in jugular blood samples taken every 20 min. During most of pregnancy there was little difference between the concentration of oestrogens in ovarian lymph, ovarian venous plasma and jugular plasma but, during the 3–5 days before calving, these hormones occurred at slightly higher concentration in ovarian lymph. Apart from pregnenolone and androstenedione, all steroids occurred at lower concentrations in uterine lymph than in jugular plasma. Shortly before parturition there was an abrupt increase in the concentration of PGF-2α in uterine lymph. Lymph reflects more accurately the milieu of tissue cells than efferent blood and further analysis of differences in the concentration of substances in lymph relative to the output in the ovarian and uterine arterial and venous blood may lead to the identification of factors important in local regulatory mechanisms in the reproductive tract.
Keywords: lymph; ovary; uterus; cows; pregnancy