Summary. Ewes were hypophysectomized on Day 0 and ovariectomized 1, 2, 4 or 8 days later. There was no effect of hypophysectomy on the overall population of follicles > 0·8 mm in diameter during the time studied. However, the growth of healthy follicles >2 mm in diameter was prevented by Day 2. Turnover of follicles was very active in the ovaries of hypophysectomized ewes as shown by peaks in the proportion of follicles in early atresia at Day 4 and in advanced atresia at Days 1 and 8. By Day 8, most of the measures of the population of follicles 0·8 to 2 mm in diameter were back to the values of Day 0 ewes. The mitotic index of the granulosa cells of the healthy follicles exhibited a similar pattern with a nadir at Day 2 followed by a return at Days 4 and 8 to values similar to Day 0 ewes.
Ink-marked preovulatory follicles underwent a steady decrease in their histological size after hypophysectomy and this was associated with time-related changes in the health status of these follicles. By Day 1, 4 out of 7 follicles were still healthy while at Days 2, 4 and 8, all follicles were in advanced, late and collapsing atresia respectively. There was no evidence of an ability of PMSG (1000 i.u.) to rescue large follicles in advanced atresia (48 h after hypophysectomy). Furthermore, at 24 h after hypophysectomy, only 2 out of 5 follicles were maintained. However, PMSG partly overcame the depressing effects of hypophysectomy on the population of follicles 0·8 to 2 mm in diameter.
It is concluded that (1) active follicular turnover can occur in the absence of gonadotrophins; (2) it takes about 8 days for a large follicle to disappear in the ovarian stroma; and (3) it is unlikely that rescue of atretic follicles massively contributes to the ovulatory response after PMSG.
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