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Mayel Chirinos, Marta Durand, María Elena González-González, Gabriela Hernández-Silva, Israel Maldonado-Rosas, Pablo López, and Fernando Larrea

Levonorgestrel (LNG), a synthetic 19 nor-testosterone derivative, is widely used for emergency contraception. It is well known that LNG prevents ovulation only when given prior to the surge of serum luteinizing hormone (LH) during the periovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle. This observation suggests that LNG, given its contraceptive efficacy, has additional effects other than those affecting ovulation. In this study, we have evaluated the effects on human sperm functionality of uterine flushings (UF) obtained from women at day LH + 1 of a control cycle (CTR-LH + 1) and after receiving LNG (LNG-LH + 1) two days before the surge of LH. Human sperm from normozoospermic donors were incubated with UF and protein tyrosine phosphorylation, sperm motility, acrosome reaction as well as zona pellucida (ZP) binding capacity were assessed. A significant decrease in total motility and tyrosine phosphorylation accompanied by an increase on spontaneous acrosome reaction was observed when sperm were incubated in the presence of LNG-LH + 1. None of these effects were mimicked by purified glycodelin A (GdA). Moreover, the addition of UF obtained during the periovulatory phase from LNG-treated women or the presence of purified GdA significantly decreased sperm-ZP binding. The data were compatible with changes affecting sperm capacitation, motility and interaction with the ZP. These results may offer evidence on additional mechanisms of action of LNG as an emergency contraceptive.

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Laura Torres-Rovira, Sara Succu, Valeria Pasciu, Maria Elena Manca, Antonio Gonzalez-Bulnes, Giovanni Giuseppe Leoni, Maria Grazia Pennino, Antonio Spezzigu, Marilia Gallus, Maria Dattena, Danielle Monniaux, Salvatore Naitana, and Fiammetta Berlinguer

The importance of postnatal pituitary activation as regards female reproductive development is not yet understood. By taking advantage of the experimental model developed in a previous study, i.e. ewe lambs expressing markedly different ovarian phenotypes at 50 days of age, we designed this study to determine whether differences found in ovarian status during the early prepubertal period are due to different patterns of postnatal pituitary activation, and to assess whether these differences have long lasting effects on subsequent reproductive performance. Results showed that ewe lambs with high antral follicle count (AFC) at 50 days of age had significantly lower plasma FSH concentrations and higher anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) concentrations during the first 9 weeks of age compared with low AFC ewe lambs (P<0.0001). With a longitudinal experiment we showed that a high AFC in the early prepubertal period is associated with consistently higher AMH concentrations and numbers of antral follicles up to the postpubertal period, and with higher pregnancy rates in the first breeding season. In addition, the effect of age in decreasing AMH concentrations was more marked in the low AFC group. Results of the present study demonstrate that ewe lambs undergo different patterns of postnatal pituitary activation. A high AFC at 50 days of age indicates an advanced phase of ovarian maturation, which was accompanied by constantly higher AMH concentrations up to the postpubertal period, a greater ovarian response to FSH stimulation and by higher pregnancy rates at first mating, as compared with the low AFC group.

Free access

Maria Elena Manca, Maria Lucia Manunta, Antonio Spezzigu, Laura Torres-Rovira, Antonio Gonzalez-Bulnes, Valeria Pasciu, Peter Piu, Giovanni G Leoni, Sara Succu, Didier Chesneau, Salvatore Naitana, and Fiammetta Berlinguer

This study assessed the effect of melatonin deprival on ovarian status and function in sheep. Experimental procedures were carried out within two consecutive breeding seasons. Animals were divided into two groups: pinealectomised (n=6) and sham-operated (n=6). The completeness of the pineal gland removal was confirmed by the plasma concentration of melatonin. Ovarian status was monitored by ovarian ultrasonography for 1 year to study reproductive seasonality. Follicular and corpus luteal growth dynamics were assessed during an induced oestrous cycle. As the effects of melatonin on the ovary may also be mediated by its antioxidant properties, plasma Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity (TEAC) was determined monthly for 1 year. Pinealectomy significantly extended the breeding season (310±24.7 vs 217.5±24.7 days in controls; P<0.05). Both pinealectomised and sham-operated ewes showed a well-defined wave-like pattern of follicle dynamics; however, melatonin deficiency caused fewer waves during the oestrous cycle (4.3±0.2 vs 5.2±0.2; P<0.05), because waves were 1 day longer when compared with the controls (7.2±0.3 vs 6.1±0.3; P<0.05). The mean area of the corpora lutea (105.4±5.9 vs 65.4±5.9 mm2; P<0.05) and plasma progesterone levels (7.1±0.7 vs 4.9±0.6 ng/ml; P<0.05) were significantly higher in sham-operated ewes compared with pinealectomised ewes. In addition, TEAC values were significantly lower in pinealectomised ewes compared with control ones. These data suggest that melatonin, besides exerting its well-known role in the synchronisation of seasonal reproductive fluctuations, influences the growth pattern of the follicles and the steroidogenic capacity of the corpus luteum.

Free Italian abstract

An Italian translation of this abstract is freely available at