Pharmacologic application of native GnRH in the winter anovulatory mare, II: accelerating the timing of pregnancy.
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Onset of the winter anovulatory period in mares is associated with a marked diminution in adenohypophyseal synthesis and release of LH. Native GnRH, unlike its synthetic agonists, stimulates the synthesis and secretion of LH in mares without pituitary refractoriness. Herein we tested the hypotheses that (1) the average Julian day of pregnancy can be accelerated by up to 2 months in winter anovulatory mares treated continuously with native GnRH beginning on February 1 and (2) mares will sustain luteal function and pregnancy after treatment withdrawal. Forty-two winter anovulatory mares were stratified by age, body condition score, and size of the largest follicle across two locations in a randomized design and assigned to one of three groups (n = 14 per group): (1) CONTROL: untreated, (2) GnRH-14: GnRH delivered subcutaneously in saline at a rate of 100 g/h for 8 weeks (February 1-March 29) using four consecutive 14-day pumps (Alzet 2ML2), or (3) GnRH-28: GnRH delivered as in (2), but using two 28-day pumps (Alzet 2ML4). On development of a 35-mm follicle and expression of estrus, mares were bred the following day and treated with hCG. Pregnancies were confirmed using transrectal ultrasonography on Days 14, 24, 33, and 45, with blood samples collected to assess luteal function. Mares treated with GnRH (GnRH-14 and GnRH-28) did not differ reproductively in their responses and data were pooled for statistical comparisons. Mares treated with GnRH exhibited marked increases (P 0.04) in the frequency of development of a 35-mm follicle, submission rate for live cover and/or artificial insemination, ovulation, and pregnancy compared with control mares on treatment Day 56 (March 29). Interval to the first 35-mm follicle was 51.8 4.9 and 19.3 3.5 days (least square mean standard error of the mean) for control and GnRH-treated mares, respectively. Interval to pregnancy was 65.3 6.7 and 28.6 4.8 days (least square mean standard error of the mean) for control and GnRH-treated mares, respectively, excluding one GnRH-14 mare that failed to become pregnant over four cycles. By the end of the treatment period (March 29), only 21% of control mares were pregnant compared with 79% of GnRH-treated mares. Furthermore, mean serum concentrations of progesterone were similar to (GnRH-28; P = 0.26) or greater than (GnRH-14; P = 0.01) that of control mares from Day 0 to 46 postbreeding. Data illustrate that continuous administration of native GnRH is a highly efficient option for managing seasonal anovulation in mares and could be effectively used in the breeding industry if a user-friendly delivery option were available.