Developmental Programming of the Reproductive Neuroendocrine System in Ruminants
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Environmental factors, such as nutrition and exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC), play an important role controlling pubertal maturation and subsequent reproductive health in female mammals. Epidemiological data and recent animal studies clearly demonstrate that epigenetic effects programmed during the perinatal period can modulate several biological processes, including adult reproductive function. Current findings also indicate that these early modifications are imprinted in the genome and are likely to persist, resulting in either lifelong functional reproductive advantages or perturbations that can impact both livestock production as well as human reproductive health. The proposed studies will use a series of neuroendocrine and neuroanatomical approaches to better undertsnad the impact of the perinatal environment on reproductive neuroendocrine function in cattle and sheep. The ultimte goal is to generate fundamental knowledge to manipulate the perinatal environment in order to amelirorate disease in humans and increase productivity in livestock.