The effects of body fat content (body condition) of ewes on hypothalamic activity and gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) secretion and on pituitary sensitivity to GnRH were investigated using Scottish Blackface ewes. Two groups of 12 ewes were fed so that they achieved either a high body condition score (2·98, s.e.m. = 0·046; approximately 27% of empty body weight as fat) or a low body condition score (1·94, s.e.m. = 0·031; approximately 19% of empty body weight as fat) by 4 weeks before the period of study. Thereafter, they were differentially fed so that the difference in mean condition score was maintained. Oestrus was synchronized, and on day 11 of the subsequent cycle half of the ewes of each group were ovariectomized. On day 12, the remaining ewes were injected (i.m.) with 100 μg prostaglandin F2α analogue and ovariectomized 30 h later. Numbers of large ovarian follicles and corpora lutea present at ovariectomy were recorded. Blood samples were collected at 15-min intervals for 12 h on day 10 of the cycle (luteal phase) and at 10-min intervals from 24 to 30 h after prostaglandin injection (follicular phase). At days 2 and 7 after ovariectomy, samples were collected at 15-min intervals for 8 h and ewes were then injected with 10 μg GnRH and samples were collected for a further 3 h. Samples were assayed for LH and FSH. Ewes in high body condition had more more large follicles than ewes in low body condition during the luteal phase (15·3 vs 6·5; P < 0·05) and follicular phase (11·5 vs 7·0; NS) and a slightly higher mean ovulation rate (1·50 vs 1·20; NS). However, during the luteal and follicular phases of the cycle before ovariectomy there was no effect of condition score on mean LH or FSH concentrations or mean LH pulse frequency or pulse amplitude. Two days after ovariectomy, ewes of high body condition had a higher mean LH pulse frequency than ewes of low body condition (P < 0·05) and higher mean FSH concentrations (P < 0·05). Mean LH concentration and pulse amplitude were not affected. LH and FSH profiles were not affected by body condition on day 7. GnRH-induced increases in LH and FSH concentrations on days 2 and 7 were not affected by body condition. At day 7, but not day 2, ewes ovariectomized during the luteal phase of the cycle had a significantly (P < 0·05) greater GnRH-induced LH release compared with ewes ovariectomized during the follicular phase. It is concluded that body condition directly affects hypothalamic activity and GnRH secretion, but not pituitary sensitivity to GnRH, and that effects on reproductive performance are also mediated through changes in ovarian hormones or in hypothalamo-pituitary sensitivity to ovarian hormones.
Journal of Endocrinology (1989) 120, 497–502