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Endocrinology. 1990 Aug;127(2):916-25.

Lengthening the bovine estrous cycle with low levels of exogenous progesterone: a model for studying ovarian follicular dominance.

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  • 1Division of Biological Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853.


In cattle the development of ovarian follicles greater than or equal to 5 mm occurs in waves, with either two or three waves per estrous cycle. To increase our understanding of the control of follicular dynamics in cattle, the present study was designed to characterize the pattern of follicular development during artificially lengthened estrous cycles. Cycles were lengthened by intravaginal insertion of Silastic devices containing progesterone [Controlled Internal Drug Release devices (CIDRs)]. Control heifers (group 1) received blank devices, whereas treated heifers received one (group 2) or two CIDRs (group 3) from days 14 to 28 after estrus. In groups 2 and 3, the insertion of CIDRs prevented return to estrus at the normal time and increased cycle length as compared to the control group (30.0 +/- 0.0 and 31.0 +/- 0.3 vs. 21.0 +/- 0.7 days, respectively, P less than 0.05). After natural luteolysis and between days 22 and 28 of cycle, progesterone concentrations were maintained at lower levels in group 2 (range = 0.9-2.1 ng/ml) than in group 3 (range = 3.7-4.9 ng/ml, P less than 0.003). Follicular development and regression were monitored daily by ultrasonography. The number of follicular waves per cycle was identical in groups 1 and 2 (2.7 waves per cycle), despite the significantly longer cycles in group 2. In group 2, the presence of one CIDR altered the normal pattern of follicular development by promoting the prolonged growth of the ovulatory follicle, and associated with it, a complete absence of follicular recruitment. When compared to ovulatory follicles in controls (group 1), ovulatory follicles in group 2 were detected on the ovaries for a longer time (1.8-fold), reached a greater maximal size (1.4-fold), and were dominant for a longer time (3-fold). Heifers in group 3 had significantly more follicular waves per cycle than groups 1 and 2 (3.8 vs. 2.7 waves per cycle, respectively, P less than 0.05), due to the production of additional follicular waves during the lengthened cycle in three of six heifers. The other three heifers in group 3 showed patterns of follicular development similar to those of group 2. All heifers in the control group had normal preovulatory rises in estradiol and LH. During the period of treatment (days 14-28), 17 beta-estradiol concentrations were higher in heifers in group 2 (lower progesterone levels) than in heifers in group 3 (higher progesterone levels; P less than 0.0001). No differences were observed in basal LH concentrations between groups 2 and 3.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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