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JI Raeside, HL Christie and RL Renaud

Oestrogens are secreted in large amounts by boar testes and are known to have a synergistic effect with testosterone on the production of large volumes of seminal plasma. Thus, oestrogens play a role in regulating the large accessory sex glands in the boar. Since testosterone metabolites (e.g. 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone) account for much of its action in target tissues we have looked at the metabolism of oestrogens in the accessory sex glands of the male pig. Tissues from seminal vesicles and bulbourethral glands of 6-week-old castrate and intact males, and 12-week-old castrate animals, were incubated with (3)H-labelled oestrone and oestradiol-17beta. Aliquots of spent culture medium and of methanolic tissue extracts were taken to measure radioactivity, prior to separation of unconjugated and conjugated steroids on Waters C(18) Sep-Pak cartridges. About one-third of the radioactivity appeared as conjugates in the media from both glands with each oestrogen. Subsequently, sulphoconjugated steroids and glucuronidates were recovered in series from C(18) cartridges after solvolysis and enzyme hydrolysis respectively. Furthermore, about one-third of the conjugated fraction in each case remained unhydrolysed after these treatments. In conclusion, it is clear that a study of the actions of oestrogens on these glands must consider the dynamics of metabolism of the oestrogens presented to them by the testes and would include conjugation of steroids by the glands themselves.

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JI Raeside, RL Renaud and HL Christie

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and 3 beta-hydroxyandrosta-5,7-dien-17-one (7-dehydro-DHEA) are secreted in large quantities by the remarkably hypertrophied fetal gonads of both sexes in the pregnant mare. Their secretion serves as the fetal component of a feto-placental unit for oestrogen production in equine pregnancies. They are secreted in large amounts but show a decline in late pregnancy when the fetal gonads regress and levels of oestrogens in the mare fall as a consequence. We have examined the levels of these precursor steroids in the newborn foal in the first days after birth. DHEA and 7-dehydro-DHEA were measured in peripheral plasma in a direct RIA with a DHEA antibody which cross-reacts with 7-dehydro DHEA (> 150%). Subsequent studies were performed with solid-phase extraction, separation of unconjugated from conjugated steroids, and HPLC fractionation followed by RIA. Detection on HPLC at 254 and 280 nm was compared with results from RIA. It was concluded that DHEA is the major steroid produced by the gonads at birth. The concentrations are highly variable in the first day of postnatal life (70.45 +/- 63.06 ng/ml, n = 52) and decline rapidly to < 2 ng/ml (n = 6) at 96 h after birth. At this time the sulphate form is also seen, with an increasing ratio of DHEAS/DHEA as the value for total DHEA falls. The mechanism and significance of the apparent abrupt decline in gonadal steroidogenesis in the newborn foal remain unknown.