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JM Silva and CA Price

The earliest biochemical indicators of ovarian follicle deviation in cattle include lower oestradiol and free IGF concentrations in subordinate compared with dominant follicles. We determined if decreases in FSH, IGF-I or insulin cause decreased P450 aromatase (P450arom) or P450 cholesterol side-chain cleavage (P450scc) mRNA expression in oestrogenic bovine granulosa cells in vitro. In the first experiment, cells obtained from small follicles (2-5 mm diameter) were cultured in serum-free medium supplemented with physiological concentrations of FSH, IGF-I and insulin for 4 days. A decrease in specific hormone concentration was produced by replacing 70% of spent medium with medium devoid of FSH, insulin, or insulin and IGF-I on day 4 and again on day 5 of culture. Cultures were terminated on day 7. A reduction in FSH concentrations during the last 3 days of culture decreased P450arom and P450scc mRNA levels. A reduction in insulin reduced P450arom but not P450scc mRNA levels, and a reduction of both insulin and IGF-I concentrations further decreased P450arom mRNA levels and decreased P450scc mRNA levels. In a second experiment, cells obtained from small follicles (2-5 mm diameter) were cultured with insulin (100 ng/ml) without FSH for 4 days, and then insulin was withdrawn from the culture and FSH added for a further 3 days. The withdrawal of insulin decreased (P<0.02) oestradiol accumulation and reduced P450arom mRNA to below detectable levels, but did not affect P450scc mRNA levels. The addition of FSH transiently increased oestradiol secretion and P450arom mRNA levels, but P450arom mRNA levels were undetectable at the end of the culture period. The addition of FSH significantly enhanced P450scc mRNA levels and progesterone accumulation. These data demonstrated that a reduction of insulin-like activity reduced aromatase gene expression in bovine follicles without necessarily affecting progesterone synthetic capability, and thus may initiate follicle regression in cattle at the time of follicle divergence.

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JM Wallace, P Da Silva, RP Aitken, and MA Cruickshank

It has previously been reported that high nutrient intakes which promote rapid maternal growth throughout pregnancy are associated with poor pregnancy outcome when compared with normally growing adolescent animals. The present study examined the maternal plasma concentrations of a number of putative endocrine regulators of nutrient partitioning between the maternal and fetal compartments in relation to placental and fetal growth in this novel experimental paradigm. Embryos were recovered on day 4 after oestrus from superovulated adult ewes that had been inseminated using semen from a single sire and synchronously transferred, in singleton, to the uterus of peripubertal adolescent recipients (n = 38), which had been induced to ovulate at 32 weeks of age (live weight 47.4 +/- 0.4 kg). Post-transfer, the adolescent recipients were offered a high (n = 21) or moderate (n = 17) level of a complete diet calculated to achieve rapid (RMG) or normal (NMG) maternal growth rates. After day 100 of gestation, the feed intake of the NMG group was adjusted weekly to meet the increasing nutrient demands of the gravid uterus. Pregnancy rate following embryo transfer was higher (P < 0.05) in the RMG (90%) than in the NMG (59%) group. For ewes delivering live young at term, liveweight gain during the first 100 days of gestation was 294 +/- 12.9 and 84 +/- 4.7 g/day for the RMG (n = 16) and NMG (n = 10) groups respectively, and body condition score immediately prior to parturition was higher in RMG than in NMG ewes (2.9 +/- 0.04 vs 1.9 +/- 0.15 score units respectively, P < 0.001). For the RMG and NMG groups respectively, mean placental weight was 327 +/- 18.1 and 485 +/- 16.6 g with lamb birth weights of 3.49 +/- 0.13 and 4.82 +/- 0.21 kg (P < 0.001). The reduction in placental mass in the RMG group reflected a decrease in the number (P < 0.001) and size (P < 0.01) of the fetal cotyledons. The duration of gestation was shorter (P < 0.001) and colostrum yield at parturition lower (P < 0.001) in the RMG group. Maternal insulin concentrations, determined three times weekly, were higher (P < 0.001) throughout gestation in the RMG group and irrespective of treatment group were negatively correlated (P < 0.01) with placental weight and lamb birth weight. High glucose levels throughout gestation and a decreased response to an exogenous insulin challenge on day 95 of gestation implied a degree of insulin resistance in the RMG group but, in spite of these high maternal glucose concentrations, the reduced size of the placenta probably constrained fetal growth. Maternal IGF-I levels determined weekly, were elevated (P < 0.001) during the second and third trimester in RMG versus NMG groups and a sustained elevation in maternal tri-iodothyronine and thyroxine concentrations was evident in the RMG group from mid-gestation. In contrast, GH pulse frequency and mean GH concentrations, determined on day 68 and 122 of gestation, were lower (P < 0.05) in the RMG group, and irrespective of treatment group, were correlated negatively with feed intake and positively with placental weight and colostrum yield at parturition. Progesterone concentrations were lower in the RMG group during the second and third trimesters (P < 0.001) and, irrespective of treatment group, were positively associated (P < 0.001) with placental weight, gestation length and colostrum yield. These results suggest that in pregnant adolescent sheep on high dietary intakes, elevated insulin and IGF-I levels ensure that the anabolic drive to maternal tissue synthesis is established during early gestation at the expense of placental growth. The consequent restriction in placental transport capacity is the primary limitation to fetal growth and reduced GH and placental progesterone secretion may impair colostrum production.

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ML Boudjemaa, P Rouillier, B Bhatia, JM Silva, LA Guilbault, and CA Price

We tested the hypotheses that the secretion of dimeric inhibin-A from cultured bovine granulosa cells is stimulated by FSH, and that antral cells secrete more inhibin-A than do mural cells. Cells from the antral or mural compartment of follicles were cultured in defined medium in two culture systems, and dimeric inhibin-A was measured by two-site ELISA or by Western immunoblotting. In the first culture system, dimeric inhibin-A secretion declined with time in culture, but was significantly (P<0.05) higher from antral than from mural cells (as was total inhibin-alpha measured by RIA). The secretion of dimeric inhibin-A and inhibin-alpha from antral but not mural cells was responsive to FSH. In the second culture system, dimeric inhibin-A secretion increased with time in culture, and was significantly stimulated by FSH, but FSH responsiveness was dependent on the concentrations of insulin in the culture medium. The major forms of inhibin-A secreted had molecular masses of approximately 58, 62, 103-116 and >116 kDa; the 32 kDa form was barely detectable. These different forms were all stimulated by FSH, but the >116 and 62 kDa forms were most responsive to FSH. We conclude that (i) FSH stimulates dimeric inhibin-A secretion from bovine granulosa cells, (ii) the 62 kDa form of inhibin-A may be more responsive to FSH than the 58 kDa form, and (iii) the spatial differentiation of granulosa cell function within the follicle previously observed for oestradiol secretion was also observed for inhibin-alpha and dimeric inhibin-A secretion.