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R. J. Nelson, J. Dark and I. Zucker

Summary. Male California voles were maintained in long (14L:10D) or short photoperiods (10L:14D) for 10 weeks and fed a standard diet of rabbit chow and water ad libitum. One additional group in each photoperiod received the standard diet plus supplements of spinach 3 times weekly. A fifth group was housed in 14L:10D and fed the standard diet, but for 10 weeks water availability was restricted to several hours each morning. Testes and seminal vesicles were heaviest in long-day voles fed spinach supplements and lightest in short-day voles fed only the standard diet; the latter animals manifested reduced testicular spermatogenesis. Testicular weights were also depressed in voles with restricted access to water. It is suggested that photoperiods that simulate those of winter induce regression of the reproductive organs of male California voles but the availability of green vegetation counteracts the inhibitory effects of short daylengths.

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L. Smale, R. J. Nelson and I. Zucker

Summary. The influence of neonatal androgenization on behavioural receptivity was tested by treating female voles on the 3rd day of life with testosterone propionate or with the oil vehicle. After treatment in adulthood with urine or with oestradiol benzoate, androgenized voles were less likely than normal females to display behavioural oestrus and were more likely to engage in agonistic behaviour in tests with stud males. Uteri of androgenized and control females treated with oestradiol benzoate in adulthood manifested similar increases in weight; however, only normal females treated with male urine showed increased uterine weights. Males castrated in adulthood did not display lordosis after treatment with oestradiol benzoate. Sexual differentiation induced by neonatal testicular secretions appears to limit responsiveness of the adult neuroendocrine axis to chemosensory stimuli in male urine.

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Laura Smale, R. J. Nelson and I. Zucker

Summary. Short daylengths did not affect testes weight or spermatogenic index in male voles or uterine weight in female voles. Short daylengths did stimulate the growth of a winter pelage in both sexes; short-day voles had longer underhairs and guard hairs and a thicker, more dense pelage than did long-day voles. Plasma prolactin concentrations were five times higher in long-day than in short-day females and 25% higher in long-day males than in short-day males. The effect of short daylength on pelage was prevented by pinealectomy. We suggest that the growth of a winter coat is an obligate adaptation for winter survival, stimulated by exposure to short daylengths, but that changes in breeding activity are facultative and dependent to a greater extent on other cues for seasonal synchronization.

Keywords: vole; photoperiodism; prolactin; pelage; reproduction

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R. D. Shanks, R. G. Popp, G. C. McCoy, D. R. Nelson and J. L. Robinson

Summary. Holstein–Friesian cattle heterozygous for the deficiency of uridine monophosphate (UMP) synthase have half-normal activity of UMP synthase. The homozygous recessive genotype would result in little or no activity, has not been observed among live animals and apparently leads to embryonic mortality at ∼Day 40 of gestation. Activity of UMP synthase averaged 2·74 ± 0·61 units/mg protein for 19 obligatory normal embryos (from normal × normal matings). Activity for 18 embryos from heterozygote × heterozygote matings yielded three non-overlapping groups as follows: (i) five presumed normals with > two-thirds normal activity, (ii) ten apparent heterozygotes with one-third to two-thirds normal activity and (iii) three putative homozygous recessive embryos with < one-third normal activity. The distribution among these groups was consistent with the 1:2:1 ratio expected for autosomal inheritance. Conception of embryos homozygous recessive for this disorder was demonstrated.

Keywords: embryonic mortality; inherited disorder; uridine monophosphate synthase; embryo; cow

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T. Tsubota, R. A. Nelson, J. D. Thulin, L. Howell and J. M. Bahr

Prolactin may be involved in the regulation of reproduction in black bears (Ursus americanus) as it is a mediator of photoperiodic changes in a number of species. The objectives of this study were to validate a radioimmunoassay to measure prolactin in bear serum and to describe seasonal changes in serum prolactin concentrations in captive male bears. Serum samples were obtained nine times during a year from three captive male black bears that were denning between November and March and active during the other months. The heterologous prolactin radioimmunoassay, using pig125I-labelled prolactin and goat anti-pig prolactin as a primary antibody, was validated. Injection of thyrotrophin-releasing hormone into the three male bears in June resulted in a rapid increase in serum concentrations of prolactin (t = 0, 11.4–14.8 ng ml−1; t = 15–30 min, 18.4–28.7 ng ml−1). The sensitivity of the assay was 0.08 ng per tube. Intra- and interassay coefficients of variation were 5.5% (n = 6) and 5.7% (n = 6), respectively. Serum concentrations of prolactin changed seasonally, with the lowest concentrations in December (mean ± sd = 1.1 ± 0.1 ng ml−1); this was followed by a gradual increase between January (2.6 ± 0.6 ng ml−1) and April (6.4 ± 1.2 ng ml−1) and the highest concentrations in May (17.6 ± 4.7 ng ml−1), preceding peak testosterone concentrations in June. The observation that prolactin secretion increased with increasing daylength suggests that photoperiod may be an external regulator. The presence of high concentrations of prolactin before peak testosterone concentrations suggests that prolactin may play a role in regulating seasonal changes in the testes.

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Emilie F. Rissman, R. J. Nelson, J. L. Blank and F. H. Bronson

Summary. Musk shrews (Suncus murinus) were maintained for 8 weeks in long (16 h light:8 h darkness) or short (8 h light:16 h darkness) daylengths. Males housed in short daylengths had significantly lighter androgen-dependent sex accessory organs than did males kept in long daylengths. This same trend was noted in male sexual behaviour. However, the weights of the testes and epididymides and sperm numbers did not differ. Females housed in short daylengths had significantly lighter cervices and were less likely to demonstrate sex behaviour than animals kept in under long daylengths. Ovarian and uterine weights did not differ. These results suggest that the ability to respond to photoperiod can exist in tropical mammals, even if it is not used as a cue to time seasonal breeding.

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J. F. Hasler, R. A. Bowen, L. D. Nelson and G. E. Seidel Jr

Summary. Progesterone concentrations in systemic blood were determined by radioimmunoassay in crossbred cattle used as recipients in an embryo transfer programme. An embryo was transferred surgically to the uterine horn of 528 females which were in oestrus within one half-day of the donor. Jugular blood was obtained at the time embryos were transferred (3–7 days after oestrus) and again from most females between Days 9 and 14. Pregnancy was determined by rectal palpation 45– 65 days after oestrus. There were no significant differences between serum progesterone levels of females which remained pregnant and those which did not. Out of 177 pregnant recipients, none had serum progesterone levels <0·5 ng/ml on Days 10, 11, or 12 but in 8, values were <1·0 ng/ml. Blood samples were also taken on Days 20, 21, or 22 from 113 of these recipients. The mean ± s.e.m. concentration of progesterone in the pregnant females (5·14 ± 0·34 ng/ml) was significantly higher (P < 0·001) than in the non-pregnant females (1·17 ± 0·25 ng/ml). The correlation coefficients between progesterone levels on Days 3, 4, 5 or 6 and 10–12 ranged from 0·18 to 0·37 (all P < 0·02). Progesterone levels were not related to length of the previous cycle, the time of day an animal was first noticed in oestrus or the side of the corpus luteum. However, cows with a short oestrus had higher progesterone levels on Days 3–7 (P < 0·01) than those in oestrus for a longer time.

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T. Tsubota, L. Howell-Skalla, H. Nitta, Y. Osawa, J. I. Mason, P. G. Meiers, R. A. Nelson and J. M. Bahr

American black bears, Ursus americanus, are seasonal breeders with a mating season in late spring to early summer. The objectives of this study were to determine whether there are seasonal changes in spermatogenesis and immunolocalization of testicular steroidogenic enzymes, and to correlate these changes with peripheral steroid concentrations. Three captive mature bears were maintained in open cages during the summer season and provided with chambers for denning during the winter. Testicular biopsies and blood samples were obtained from anaesthetized bears on 12 March, 15 June, 12 October and 15 January. Steroidogenic enzymes were immunolocalized using polyclonal antisera raised against bovine adrenal cholesterol side-chain cleavage cytochrome P450 (P450scc), human placental 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3βHSD), porcine testicular 17α-hydroxylase cytochrome P450 (P450c17) and human placental aromatase cytochrome P450 (P450arom). Spermatogenesis changed seasonally: spermatogonia and degenerating spermatocytes were observed in October; spermatogonia and primary spermatocytes were present in January; spermatogonia, spermatocytes and round spermatids were present in March; and spermatogonia through spermatozoa were present in June. P450scc and P450c17 were immunolocalized in spermatids and Leydig cells in June, whereas in October these enzymes were present only in Leydig cells. 3βHSD was localized in Leydig cells in June and October with more intense staining in June. Localization of P450arom changed seasonally: no immunostaining in October; positive immunostaining in Sertoli cells in January; more extensive immunostaining in Sertoli cells, peritubular-myoid cells and round spermatids in March; and strong immunostaining in Sertoli cells and round and elongating spermatids in June. Serum testosterone and oestradiol concentrations changed seasonally: testosterone and oestrogen were low in October and January, slightly higher in March, and high in June. The present study demonstrates that in the black bear seasonal changes in spermatogenesis are accompanied by changes in the immunolocalization of testicular steroidogenic enzymes that are correlated with changes in serum testosterone and oestradiol concentrations. The presence of P450arom in Sertoli cells at the beginning of testicular recrudescence suggests that aromatase and oestrogen may play a role in re-initiating spermatogenesis.