The maturation of the inhibitory feedback action of oestrogen on FSH secretion in the immature female rat was studied from 5 days of age until after the first ovulation. To study the role of the oestrogen binding alpha-foetoprotein (AFP) which is present in the blood of young animals, the effects of various doses of oestradiol and of the synthetic oestrogen R2858 (11β-methoxy-17-ethynyl-oestradiol), which is not bound by AFP, were compared in ovariectomized rats.
A rise in the serum concentration of FSH within 2 days of ovariectomy was first observed in rats ovariectomized at 8 days of age. Between 8 and 28 days of age the rise in FSH after ovariectomy could be prevented by oestrogen injections in such a way that the resulting FSH concentration amounted to 50% of that in ovariectomized control rats. This was achieved with a constant dose of 0·00015 μg R2858/100 g body weight, whereas the dose of oestradiol needed decreased from 0·05 to 0·01 μg/100 g body weight indicating an increased sensitivity to the feedback action of oestradiol. After day 28, sensitivity to the feedback action of both R2858 and oestradiol decreased progressively up to the time of the first ovulation.
In contrast to results at earlier ages, none of the doses of either oestrogen was capable of maintaining near-physiological concentrations of FSH after 20 days of age.
It is concluded that the apparent increase in sensitivity to the feedback action of oestradiol occurring before 28 days of age reflects the disappearance of AFP from the blood, whereas the subsequent decrease in sensitivity is independent of AFP. Moreover, it is concluded that up to about 20 days of age oestradiol could be, though not necessarily is, the sole ovarian factor involved in regulating FSH secretion, whereas at later ages additional steroids and/or factors must be involved.