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KL Hull and S Harvey

Growth hormone (GH) is not classically considered as a reproductive hormone, although a vast literature indicates that it has roles in reproductive function. It is required for sexual differentiation and pubertal maturation and it participates in gonadal steroidogenesis, gametogenesis and ovulation. GH is also required for fetal nutrition and growth during pregnancy and for mammary development and lactation. Although some of these roles reflect the action of GH on the secretion and action of LH and FSH (Chandrashekar and Bartke, 1998), they also reflect direct actions of GH and indirect actions mediated through the local production of insulin-like growth factor I. Moreover, as GH is produced in gonadal and mammary tissues, these actions may reflect local autocrine or paracrine actions of extrapituitary GH, as well as the endocrine actions of pituitary GH. The roles of GH in reproductive function are considered in this review.

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J. P. Renton, J. S. Boyd, P. D. Eckersall, J. M. Ferguson, M. J. A. Harvey, J. Mullaney, and B. Perry

Summary. Using circulating plasma hormone estimations, ovulation was monitored in bitches. The results obtained indicate that the timing of ovulation bears little relationship to alterations in sexual behaviour. The bitches were killed and reproductive tracts were removed at various intervals after ovulation and ova or embryos were recovered. The embryo stages were assessed visually and some were investigated histologically. Embryonic development, to early blastocyst stage, took place within the oviducts during the first 12 days after ovulation and there was a marked increase in size between the early and late blastocyst. A culture system using cells from the uterine tube supported the development of one 1-cell embryo to the morula stage.

Keywords: bitch; ovulation; fertilization; embryonic development

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Jordanna S Master, George A Thouas, Alexandra J Harvey, John R Sheedy, Natalie J Hannan, David K Gardner, and Mary E Wlodek

Low birth weight is associated with an increased risk for adult disease development with recent studies highlighting transmission to subsequent generations. However, the mechanisms and timing of programming of disease transmission to the next generation remain unknown. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of low birth weight and advanced maternal age on second-generation preimplantation blastocysts. Uteroplacental insufficiency or sham surgery was performed in late-gestation WKY pregnant rats, giving rise to first-generation (F1) restricted (born small) and control offspring respectively. F1 control and restricted females, at 4 or 12 months of age, were naturally mated with normal males. Second-generation (F2) blastocysts from restricted females displayed reduced expression of genes related to growth compared with F2 control (P<0.05). Following 24 h culture, F2 restricted blastocysts had accelerated development, with increased total cell number, a result of increased trophectoderm cells compared with control (P<0.05). There were alterations in carbohydrate and serine utilisation in F2 restricted blastocysts and F2 restricted outgrowths from 4-month-old females respectively (P<0.05). F2 blastocysts from aged restricted females were developmentally delayed at retrieval, with reduced total cell number attributable to reduced trophectoderm number with changes in carbohydrate utilisation (P<0.05). Advanced maternal age resulted in alterations in a number of amino acids in media obtained from F2 blastocyst outgrowths (P<0.05). These findings demonstrate that growth restriction and advanced maternal age can alter F2 preimplantation embryo physiology and the subsequent offspring growth.