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The relationships between ovarian antral follicle dynamics, luteal function and endocrine variables in ewes



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Transrectal ovarian ultrasonography and hormone measurements were used to study ovarian antral follicular dynamics and development of luteal structures during the middle portion of the breeding season in non-prolific cross-bred Western white-faced ewes and prolific Finn sheep. Studies were also done on ovarian activity in Western white-faced ewes during the transition to seasonal anoestrus and at the onset of the breeding season. Lastly, two experiments were carried out to examine ovulatory responses and subsequent luteal function in Western white-faced ewes treated with luteolysin (PgF₂ₐ) and progestogen (medroxyprogesterone acetate-MAP) during the luteal phase of the oestrous cycle and after ovulation induction with gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) in mid-anoestrus. The results of the present experiments showed that the growth of ovine antral follicles reaching ovulatory sizes of ≥5 mm in diameter occurred in a wave-like pattern throughout the oestrous cycle in both breeds of sheep under study. There were typically 3 or 4 waves of follicle production throughout the 17-day interovulatory period. Ovarian follicular emergence, or beginning of growth from the pool of 3-mm follicles, appeared to be primarily controlled by changes in circulating concentrations of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). In cyclic ewes, the largest ovarian follicles acquired the ability to secrete oestradiol from the day of emergence and a peak of oestradiol secretion occurred about the time they reached their maximum diameter. The high ovulation rate in prolific Finn sheep appeared to be achieved mainly by the ovulation of follicles emerging in the last two waves of the interovulatory interval. Interestingly, prolific Finn ewes produced more but smaller corpora lutea (CL) and had lower serum concentrations of progesterone during the luteal phase of the oestrous cycle as compared to non-prolific Western white-faced ewes. During the transition into seasonal anoestrus in Western white-faced ewes, FSH secretion resembled that during the breeding season but the pattern of emergence of sequential follicular waves was dissociated from FSH and oestradiol secretion. Prior to the first ovulation of the breeding season, there was a distinct elevation in circulating concentrations of progesterone produced by luteinized unovulated follicles and/or interstitial tissue of unknown origin. This increase in serum levels of progesterone, heralding the resumption of ovulatory cycles, did not alter the rhythmic pattern FSH secretion or follicular wave emergence. Treatment of non-prolific Western white-faced ewes with PgF₂ₐ and MAP applied late in the oestrous cycle changed follicular dynamics and increased ovulation rate to resemble that in prolific Finn sheep. Effects of MAP on the recruitment and growth of ovulatory follicles in Western white-faced ewes did not have a clear gonadotrophic dependancy, suggesting a possible local regulation of ovarian activity by progestins in ewes. Following the induction of ovulation with GnRH in anoestrous Western white-faced ewes, an array of ovarian responses were detected with ultrasonography, including failure of ovulation of large antral follicles, normal (fall-lifespan) and short-lived CL post-ovulation, and luteinized cystic-like follicles. The normal luteinization of ovulated follicles appeared to be related to the amplitude of episodic elevations in daily serum FSH concentrations before induction of ovulation and characteristics of the preovulatory LH surge.



estrus, oestrous, anoestrus, estrous, ovarian follicle development, follicular waves, luteal structures, corpus luteum, ovine oestrus cycle, ewes, sheep, ovulation



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Veterinary Biomedical Sciences


Veterinary Biomedical Sciences



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