Numerous antral follicles develop during the second half of pregnancy in the golden hamster. However, mechanisms regulating follicular development during this period are unknown. Because inhibin and activin are related to follicular development, these hormones were studied to gain insight into any potential roles in follicular development. Plasma inhibin A and B suddenly increased from day 8 of pregnancy, reached peak levels on day 10 and gradually declined to term. Plasma activin A gradually increased from day 8 to day 15 of pregnancy, and this was followed by an abrupt decrease at day one of lactation. Ovariectomy on day 12 of pregnancy rapidly reduced plasma inhibin A and B, but not activin A levels. Hysterectomy or placentectomy on day 12 of pregnancy caused an abrupt decrease in the levels of plasma activin A and FSH, but not inhibin A and B at 6 h after surgery. Hysterectomy also induced atresia of large antral follicles at 24 h after surgery. These results indicate that antral follicles are the main source of circulating inhibin A and B, whereas uteri and placentae are the main source of circulating activin A. These results suggest that increased levels of activin A may be involved in folliculogenesis in the ovary during the second half of pregnancy in the golden hamster.
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