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DW Miller, PA Findlay, MA Morrison, N Raver, and CL Adam

The role of leptin in neuroendocrine appetite and reproductive regulation remains to be fully resolved. A series of three experiments was conducted using adequately nourished oestradiol-implanted castrated male sheep. In a cross-over design (n=6), responses to a single i.c.v. (third ventricle) injection of leptin (0.5, 1.0 and 1.5 mg ovine leptin (oLEP) and 1.0 mg murine leptin (mLEP)), N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA, 20 micro g) or 0.9% saline (control) were measured in terms of LH secretion (4 h post-injection compared with 4 h pre-injection) and appetite (during 2 h post-injection) in autumn (Experiment 1). NMDA and 1.0 mg oLEP treatments were repeated in the same sheep in the following spring (Experiment 2). With an additional 12 sheep (n=18 in cross-over design), responses to low-dose 'physiological' i.c.v. infusion of leptin (8 ng/h for 12 h daily for 4 days), insulin (0.7 ng/h) and artificial cerebrospinal fluid were measured in the next spring (Experiment 3). LH was studied over 8 h and appetite over 1 h on days 1 and 4 of infusion. In Experiment 1 (autumn), oLEP overall increased LH pulse frequency by up to 110% (P<0.05), decreased LH pulse amplitude (P<0.05) and decreased appetite (P<0.05). mLEP reduced LH pulse amplitude (P<0.05) without significant effect on appetite, while NMDA reduced appetite (P<0.05) but had no effect on LH. In Experiment 2 (spring), LH responses were 'surge-like' with highly significant increases in the moving average LH concentration after 1.0 mg oLEP (P<0.001) and after NMDA (P<0.001). Compared with similar analysis of experiment 1 results, the LH response in spring was greater than that in autumn for both 1.0 mg oLEP (P<0.05) and NMDA (P<0.005). Conversely, unlike in autumn (Experiment 1), there was no effect of 1.0 mg oLEP or NMDA on appetite in the spring (Experiment 2). In Experiment 3 (spring), 'physiological' i.c.v. infusion of oLEP or insulin increased LH pulse frequency by up to 100% (P<0.001) compared with the control infusion on both days 1 and 4, but there were no effects on appetite. These results indicate that intracerebral leptin both stimulates reproductive neuroendocrine output and decreases appetite in adequately nourished sheep. However, the responses of these two axes were dose-dependent and differentially affected by the time of year, suggesting dissociation of the neural pathways involved.

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MT Rae, SM Rhind, CE Kyle, DW Miller, and AN Brooks

The aims of this study were to determine which hormones may have a role in the expression of maternal undernutrition effects on reproductive function, in both the developing fetus and the adult offspring. This was undertaken by measuring the effects of long-term maternal undernutrition on metabolic hormone profiles and pituitary responses to single doses of GnRH and GH-releasing factor (GRF) in fetal sheep. From mating, groups of ewes were fed rations providing either 100% (HIGH) or 50% (LOW) of estimated metabolisable energy requirements for pregnancy throughout the experiment until slaughter at approximately 119 days of gestation. Fetal and maternal blood samples were collected from 113 until 119 days of gestation, via carotid and jugular catheters respectively, and assayed for insulin, IGF-I, GH, thyroxine and triiodothyronine (T(3)). Undernutrition had no effects on fetal weight, fetal gonad weight of either sex, fetal insulin or IGF-I concentrations. Male LOW fetuses exhibited a significantly attenuated response (P<0.05) to a bolus challenge of GnRH compared with HIGH fetuses. Basal fetal GH concentrations and the response to exogenous GRF were similar in both treatment groups, although LOW fetuses exhibited more secretory episodes (P<0.01). Mean T(3) concentrations were significantly lower in both the maternal (P<0.01) and fetal (P<0.05) plasma of LOW animals compared with HIGH animals. It is concluded that pituitary function was altered in fetal males and could influence male reproductive development. On the other hand, in female sheep, fetal gonadal abnormalities and reductions in reproductive capacity in adult life which are associated with fetal undernutrition are unlikely to be attributable to altered pituitary function. Additionally, these studies raise the possibility that thyroid hormones may have a role in the expression of maternal undernutrition effects on fetal development.