Summary. Peripheral plasma progesterone concentrations exhibited an increase 10 days before implantation, coinciding with the resumption of blastocyst growth and with a decrease in plasma androgen values (DHA, androstenedione, testosterone). No definite pattern of oestrone was observed and oestradiol concentrations remained undetectable. The production of steroids by dispersed luteal cells showed that the growth of the corpora lutea paralleled that of blastocysts and resulted in hypertrophy followed by hyperplasia of the luteal cell. The production of progesterone in the medium increased with blastocyst size up to implantation; it was enhanced by mink charcoal-treated serum, but prolactin, LH, FSH or a combination of these hormones did not affect the progesterone production, whatever the stage of diapause. DHA and androstenedione secretion increased in the two last stages of blastocyst growth and was enhanced by LH. The conversion of androstenedione and testosterone into oestrone and oestradiol was observed at all stages of embryonic diapause, indicating that corpora lutea contain aromatase activity even at an early stage. The secretion of oestrone was higher than that of oestradiol. The non-luteal tissue contributed up to 50% of the steroid production; while progesterone and androgen production remained constant, that of oestradiol decreased at the end of the delay period. These results indicated a change in the size and the secretory capacity of the luteal cell related to blastocyst development and implantation. Although progesterone was the main product of the corpora lutea, androgens and oestrogens were also secreted.
Keywords: delayed implantation; mink; corpus luteum; steroid hormones; in vivo; in vitro