Temporal aspects of ovarian follicular growth and steroidogenesis following exogenous follicle-stimulating hormone in Angus heifers.
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Ultrasonography and endocrine assay techniques were used to monitor structural and hormonal alterations made by the ovary in response to the biological actions of pituitary-derived follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH-P). Angus heifers (n = 36) were allotted to receive injections (twice per day) of either FSH-P (up to a total of 28 mg over a maximum of 4 days beginning on Day 10 of a synchronized estrous cycle) or saline in order to quantify temporal relationships among follicle growth and steroid hormone profiles. Transrectal ultrasonography was utilized at 12-h intervals to monitor and record follicle growth. Plasma was collected every 12 h for the first 48 h of the experiment and then every 6 h for the remainder of the experiment. At 48 and 60 h after the onset of treatments, prostaglandin F2 alpha (PGF2 alpha; 25 mg) was administered (i.m.). FSH-treated heifers (n = 6 at each time) were terminated at 24, 48, 72 and 96 h following the onset of treatment. Saline-treated heifers were terminated at 24 and 96 h (n = 6 at each time). After ovaries were obtained, follicular number and size were recorded and follicular fluid (FF) was collected. Plasma concentration of progesterone (P) and estradiol (E2) and FF concentration of P, E2, estrone, testosterone and androstenedione were determined by radioimmunoassays. Plasma concentration of E2 increased (P < 0.05) within 36 h of initiation of FSH treatment. Plasma P decreased (P < 0.0001) by 12 h post-PGF2 alpha. Ultrasonographic examination revealed a significant decrease in the number of small follicles by 48 h, whereas the number of medium follicles increased (P < 0.05) by 60 h after the initiation of FSH treatment. The number of large follicles (LF > or = 10 mm diameter) increased (P < 0.01) over the course of the experiment. The total number of ovarian follicles (TF) 24 h after the start of FSH treatment was correlated (r = 0.99; P < 0.0001) with the number of small follicles (SF < or = 5 mm). At 72 h after the onset of FSH treatment, the number of medium follicles (i.e. 6-9 mm) was correlated with TF (r = 0.97; P < 0.0001). Estradiol was the predominant FF steroid. Follicular fluid E2 was greatest in follicles at 72 h after FSH treatment. Follicular fluid E2 and plasma E2 were positively correlated (r = 0.66; P < 0.001). Follicular aromatase activity was estimated by evaluating the ratio of FF estrogens (E) to androgens (A). Elevated aromatase activity (E:A ratio > 1.0) was detected in 196 of 206 follicles. The estrogen to progesterone ratio was used as an estimate of follicle viability. Eighty-five percent of the follicles were estimated to be viable (E:P ratio > 1.0). The peak E:A ratio in LF preceded by 24 h the peak concentration in FF E2 and plasma E2. In MF and SF the E:A ratio increased by 72 h. Enhancement of ovarian follicular growth (i.e. increased number and size of follicles; increased steroidogenesis) by exogenous, pituitary-derived FSH is characterized by (1) increased activity of aromatase, and (2) accumulation of FF E2, events which temporally preceded the increase in plasma concentration of E2. These observations will aid efforts to incorporate recombinant bovine FSH and somatotropin in an effort to develop more predictable superstimulation and ovulation induction protocols.