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Reproduction. 2001 Jan;121(1):175-80.

Relationship between maternal endocrine environment, early embryo development and inhibition of the luteolytic mechanism in cows.

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University of Nottingham, School of Biosciences, Division of Animal Physiology, Sutton Bonington, Loughborough LE12 5RD, UK.


In this study, the relationship between maternal hormone environment and early embryo development in mature non-lactating Holstein-Friesian cows was investigated. Animals were inseminated at either 72 or 96 h after prostaglandin injection (n = 23) or were left as uninseminated controls (n = 10). Plasma samples were collected once a day from the first day of insemination (day 1) until day 16, when the cows underwent an oxytocin challenge, and were then slaughtered and their reproductive tracts removed. The tracts were flushed to collect embryos and the flushes were measured for interferon tau (IFN-tau) activity. Inseminated cows without an embryo on day 16 (n = 5) underwent both delayed ovulation (indicated by delayed decrease in oestradiol concentrations) and a delayed increase in progesterone concentrations after ovulation compared with cows with an embryo on day 16 (n = 15). Within the group of cows with an embryo, those with poorly developed embryos producing undetectable concentrations of IFN-tau (n = 7) had similar oestradiol profiles but underwent a delayed progesterone increase after ovulation compared with cows with well developed embryos producing measurable quantities of IFN-tau (n = 8). In the cows with an embryo, the plasma concentration of 13,14-dihydro-15-keto PGF2a, the principal metabolite of PGF2a, after injection of oxytocin was lower than that of control cows and cows without an embryo. However, when the cows with an embryo were compared on the basis of production of embryonic IFN-tau, the PGF2a response to oxytocin was attenuated completely in cows that had measurable IFN-tau activity, whereas a response of similar magnitude to that in control cows and cows without an embryo was observed in those with undetectable IFN-tau activities. In conclusion, the successful maternal recognition of pregnancy in cows depends on the presence of a sufficiently well developed embryo producing sufficient quantities of IFN-tau, which is, in turn, dependent on an appropriate pattern of maternal progesterone secretion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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