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  • Author: Zaramasina L Clark x
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Kenneth P McNatty, Derek A Heath, Zaramasina Clark, Karen Reader, Jennifer L Juengel and Janet L Pitman

Ewes heterozygous for combinations of the Inverdale (FecXI; I+), Booroola (FecB; B+) and Woodlands (FecX2W; W+) mutations have ovulation rates higher than each mutation separately. The aims of the experiments described herein were to examine the ovarian phenotypes in I+B+ and I+B+W+ ewes and to compare these with the appropriate ++ (controls), I+ and BB animals available for this study. The mean ± s.e.m. ovulation rates in the ++ (n = 23), I+ (10), I+B+ (7), I+B+W+ (10) and BB (3) animals were 1.8 ± 0.1, 2.5 ± 0.2, 6.6 ± 1.0, 9.6 ± 0.9 and 9.7 ± 0.9 respectively. The maximum number of granulosa cells per follicle in the ++ and I+ genotypes was accumulated after exceeding 5 mm diameter, whereas in I+B+, I+B+W+ and BB animals, this was achieved when follicles reached >2–3 mm. The number of putative preovulatory follicles, as assessed from those with LH-responsive granulosa cells, 24 h after the induction of luteolysis, was higher (P < 0.01) in the I+B+ and I+B+W+ compared to the ++ and I+ genotypes. The median follicular diameters of these follicles in the ++, I+, I+B+, I+B+W+ and BB genotypes were 6, 5, 3, 3 and 3 mm respectively. The total number of granulosa cells in the putative preovulatory follicles when added together, and total mass of luteal tissue, did not differ between the genotypes. Thus, despite large ovulation rate differences between animals with one or more fecundity genes, the total cell compositions over all preovulatory follicles and corpora lutea, when added together, are similar to that from the one or two such follicles in the wild types.

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Zaramasina L Clark, Derek A Heath, Anne R O’Connell, Jennifer L Juengel, Kenneth P McNatty and Janet L Pitman

Ewes with single copy mutations in GDF9, BMP15 or BMPR1B have smaller preovulatory follicles containing fewer granulosa cells (GC), while developmental competency of the oocyte appears to be maintained. We hypothesised that similarities and/or differences in follicular maturation events between WT (++) ewes and mutant ewes with single copy mutations in BMP15 and BMPR1B (I+B+) are key to the attainment of oocyte developmental competency and for increasing ovulation rate (OR) without compromising oocyte quality. Developmental competency of oocytes from I+B+ animals was confirmed following embryo transfer to recipient ewes. The microenvironment of both growing and presumptive preovulatory (PPOV) follicles from ++ and I+B+ ewes was investigated. When grouped according to gonadotropin-responsiveness, PPOV follicles from I+B+ ewes had smaller mean diameters with fewer GC than equivalent follicles in ++ ewes (OR = 4.4 ± 0.7 and 1.7 ± 0.2, respectively; P < 0.001). Functional differences between these genotypes included differential gonadotropin-responsiveness of GC, follicular fluid composition and expression levels of cumulus cell-derived VCAN, PGR, EREG and BMPR2 genes. A unique microenvironment was characterised in I+B+ follicles as they underwent maturation. Our evidence suggests that GC were less metabolically active, resulting in increased follicular fluid concentrations of amino acids and metabolic substrates, potentially protecting the oocyte from ROS. Normal expression levels of key genes linked to oocyte quality and embryo survival in I+B+ follicles support the successful lambing percentage of transferred I+B+ oocytes. In conclusion, these I+B+ oocytes develop normally, despite radical changes in follicular size and GC number induced by these combined heterozygous mutations.