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Theriogenology. 2007 Sep 1;68 Suppl 1:S242-9. Epub 2007 May 7.

Exploitation of genetic and physiological determinants of embryonic resistance to elevated temperature to improve embryonic survival in dairy cattle during heat stress.

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Department of Animal Sciences, University of Florida, PO Box 110910, Gainesville, FL 32611-0910, USA.


Heat stress causes large reductions in fertility in lactating dairy cows. The magnitude and geographical extent of this problem is increasing because improvements in milk yield have made it more difficult for cows to regulate body temperature during warm weather. There have been efforts to improve fertility during heat stress by exploiting determinants of oocyte and embryonic responses to elevated temperature. Among these determinants are genotype, stage of development, and presence of cytoprotective molecules in the reproductive tract. One effective strategy for increasing pregnancy rate during heat stress is to use embryo transfer to bypass effects of elevated temperature on the oocyte and early embryo. Pregnancy success to embryo transfer in the summer can be further improved by exposure of embryos to insulin-like growth factor-I during culture before transfer. Among the cytoprotective molecules that have been examined for enhancing fertility during heat stress are bovine somatotropin and various antioxidants. To date, an effective method for delivery of these molecules to increase fertility during heat stress has not been identified. Genes in cattle exist for regulation of body temperature and for cellular resistance to elevated temperature. Although largely unidentified, the existence of these genes offers the possibility for their incorporation into dairy breeds through crossbreeding or on an individual-gene basis. In summary, physiological or genetic manipulation of the cow to improve embryonic resistance to elevated temperature is a promising approach for enhancing fertility of lactating dairy cows.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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