Plasma concentrations of inhibin A and inhibin B during pregnancy and early lactation in chimpanzees were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Plasma samples were taken from five pregnant chimpanzees at 6-9, 10, 20 and 25 weeks of pregnancy, and following parturition. Throughout pregnancy and the early postpartum period, circulating inhibin A and inhibin B concentrations remained low, at similar levels to those during the normal menstrual cycle in chimpanzees. Concentrations of inhibin A in the placental homogenate were high enough to be measured by the ELISA and by bioassay, whereas circulating inhibin bioactivities in late pregnancy were too low to be measured. Plasma concentrations of FSH remained low with no significant changes throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period. Plasma concentrations of oestradiol-17beta and progesterone at 25 weeks of pregnancy were much higher than normal menstrual cycle levels. It was concluded that in chimpanzees the levels of circulating inhibin A and inhibin B remained low throughout pregnancy and the early postpartum period, and that the concentrations of bioactive dimeric inhibin did not increase towards the end of pregnancy. The suppression of circulating FSH levels during pregnancy is suggested to be controlled by steroid hormones that increased significantly in late pregnancy, and the present findings further suggest that the secretory pattern and role of inhibin during pregnancy in chimpanzees may be different from that in human and other primates.
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