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GM Anderson, KR Lapwood, PG Knight and TJ Parkinson

A series of experiments was conducted to examine the mechanism by which removal of the thyroid glands in seasonally suppressed rams brings about rapid testicular growth. In the first experiment, thyroidectomy at the nadir of the testicular cycle (late winter) initiated testis growth without any detectable change in the extent of spermatogenesis compared with sham-operated controls. The serum concentration of FSH, but not LH, was also markedly increased by thyroidectomy. In the second experiment, serum FSH concentration was again increased by thyroidectomy in late winter but there was no effect of thyroidectomy on LH concentration, LH pulses (measured in frequent blood samples) or testosterone concentration. Furthermore, there was no evidence of a change in central dopaminergic inhibition of GnRH, as measured by the pulsatile LH response to an i.m. injection of the dopaminergic D(2) agonist bromocriptine or antagonist sulpiride. The rapid increase in FSH concentration occurred despite a markedly increased serum inhibin A concentration in thyroidectomized rams. Therefore, the efficacy of inhibin feedback was examined by testing the FSH-suppressive effect of an inhibin preparation (5 ml charcoal-stripped bovine follicular fluid i.v.) in long-term thyroidectomized and thyroid intact castrated rams. Bovine follicular fluid suppressed FSH concentrations in control rams as expected but in marked contrast, was completely without effect in thyroidectomized animals. In castrated rams, the FSH concentration was only marginally increased by thyroidectomy, indicating that there is a major component of the mediation of the effects of thyroidectomy that is testicular in origin. It was concluded that a reduction in the ability of endogenous inhibin to inhibit FSH release at the pituitary, rather than a hypothalamic mechanism, is the primary cause of the stimulation of testis growth by thyroidectomy.

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TJ Parkinson, KC Smith, SE Long, JA Douthwaite, GE Mann and PG Knight

Freemartins are sterile XX/XY chimaeras that occur as a result of placental fusion between male and female fetuses during early pregnancy. Freemartins occur predominantly in cattle, although the prevalence of ovine freemartinism is increasing. In this study, the reproductive endocrinology of ovine freemartins was compared with that of normal sheep. Freemartins had significantly (P < 0.001) higher basal concentrations of LH and FSH than did normal ewes or rams, although the response of LH to GnRH (10 microg) was similar in freemartins, ewes and rams. Resting concentrations of oestradiol were similar in freemartins and ewes and were increased in both after eCG administration. Testosterone concentrations were higher in freemartins than in ewes, but were unresponsive to GnRH or eCG. Administration of 62.5 mg progesterone or 25 lg oestradiol twice a day for 3 days suppressed LH concentrations to baseline values in freemartins, ewes and rams. In ewes, 500 microg oestradiol administered twice a day caused preovulatory surges in LH concentrations, but suppressed LH in freemartins to baseline values. Thus, LH secretion can potentially be regulated in freemartins by gonadal steroids. FSH concentrations in freemartins were not suppressed by doses of inhibin that were effective in ewes and rams. Therefore, freemartins behave in part like castrated animals, as they have high basal concentrations of LH and FSH, which can be stimulated by GnRH and suppressed by gonadal steroids. Conversely, inhibin does not suppress FSH concentrations in freemartins, and freemartins have circulating concentrations of steroids intermediate between those of castrated and normal animals.