Influence of placentally mediated fetal growth restriction on the onset of puberty in male and female lambs

in Reproduction

The onset of puberty in prenatally growth-restricted versus normally grown lambs of both sexes, born in April and housed under natural photoperiod, was examined. Singleton pregnancies were established and adolescent ewes were offered a high or moderate nutrient intake throughout gestation. Placental mass was reduced (P < 0.001) in high compared with moderate intake dams and resulted in the birth of growth-restricted and normal birth weight offspring, respectively. At birth, female lambs weighed 3.43 kg versus 5.03 kg (P < 0.001; n = 14 per group) and male lambs weighed 2.75 kg versus 5.18 kg (P < 0.001; n = 7 per group) in growth-restricted and normal birth weight groups, respectively. Lambs suckled for 12 weeks and thereafter were fed ad libitum until week 43 of age. Growth-restricted lambs had lower preweaning live weight gains and this difference was more pronounced in male (P < 0.05) than in female lambs (P = 0.07). Thereafter, live weight remained lower (P < 0.05) in growth-restricted than in normally grown lambs of both sexes until week 25 of age. In females, the time of onset of puberty was similar in the two groups. All females ovulated and there were no differences in the number of ovarian cycles recorded or in the incidence of aberrant ovarian function. In males, testosterone concentrations and testicular volume were lower in growth-restricted compared with normally developed lambs from birth until weeks 28 and 35 of age, respectively (P < 0.05). The seasonal increase in plasma testosterone concentrations occurred later in growth-restricted than in normally developed lambs (P < 0.01) but the timing of maximum peak concentrations was similar. Peak testosterone concentrations were lower (P < 0.05) in growth-restricted than in normal male lambs.

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