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Anim Reprod Sci. 2004 Jul;82-83:461-77.

Endocrine and paracrine control of follicular development and ovulation rate in farm species.

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School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Loughborough, Leics LE12 5RD, UK.


Productivity in farm species is controlled by many factors, including ovulation rate. In cattle, single ovulations occur most frequently and in sheep (and goats) the number of ova released can range from one to many depending upon the breed, whilst the pig is polyovular. The processes of recruitment and selection determine the number of ovulatory follicles in all these species with FSH and subsequently LH playing major roles. GnRH-agonist models in which endogenous gonadotrophin secretion is suppressed and exogenous LH and/or FSH are administered at specific concentrations in defined patterns, are useful in all three species for elucidating the precise roles of specific hormones in stimulating follicular development. Differences in the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian feedback response lead to the differences in the number of ovulatory follicles, as does the pool of antral follicles from which the ovulatory ones are selected. Precocious development of follicles is also associated with more ovulations, as is the case with the Booroola due to the single gene acting through bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). It is well established that ovulation rate can also be influenced by exogenous hormone administration and by environmental factors such as nutrition. It has become apparent that these nuritional effects are mediated by a direct action at the level of the ovary, involving insulin, insulin-like growth factors (IGF) I and II and their binding proteins among other factors. These factors can also affect the quality of the oocyte and consequently embryo development and survival. Recently, the regulation of follicular angiogenesis has been shown to be important for the development of ovulatory follicles, particularly vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) which is produced primarily by the granulosa cells within the ovary and can be stimulated by gonadotrophins. Administration of VEGF has been shown to stimulate pre-antral follicular growth and increase the number of pre-ovulatory follicles. In summary both extra- and intra-ovarian factors are involved in the control of ovulation rate. Manipulation of the angiogenic process may also provide new opportunities for regulating the quality and number of follicles that ovulate.

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