Mechanisms regulating gonadotropin surges and gonadotropin requirements for follicle emergence and selection were studied in heifers. Experiment 1 evaluated whether follicular inhibins regulate the preovulatory luteinizing hormone (LH)/follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) surges elicited by gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) injection (Hour = 0) and the subsequent periovulatory FSH surge. Treatments included control (n = 6), steroid-depleted bovine follicular fluid (bFF) at Hour −4 (n = 6), and bFF at Hour 6 (n = 6). Gonadotropins in blood were assessed hourly from Hours −6 to 36, and follicle growth tracked by ultrasound. Consistent with inhibin independence, bFF at Hour −4 did not impact the GnRH-induced preovulatory FSH surge, whereas treatment at Hour 6 delayed onset of the periovulatory FSH surge and impeded growth of a new follicular wave. Experiment 2 examined GnRH and estradiol (E2) regulation of the periovulatory FSH surge. Treatment groups were control (n = 8), GnRH-receptor antagonist (GnRHr-ant, n = 8), and E2 GnRHr-ant (n = 4). GnRHr-ant (acyline) did not reduce the concentrations of FSH during the periovulatory surge and early follicle development (<7.0 mm) was unaffected, although subsequent growth of a dominant follicle (>8.0 mm) was prevented by GnRHr-ant. Addition of E2 delayed both the onset of the periovulatory FSH surge and emergence of a follicular wave. Failure to select a dominant follicle in the GnRHr-ant group was associated with reduced concentrations of LH but not FSH. Maximum diameter of F1 in controls (13.3 ± 0.5 mm) was greater than in both GnRHr-ant (7.7 ± 0.3 mm) and E2 GnRHr-ant (6.7 ± 0.8 mm) groups. Results indicated that the periovulatory FSH surge stems from removal of negative stimuli (follicular E2 and inhibin), but is independent of GnRH stimulation. Emergence and early growth of follicles (until about 8 mm) requires the periovulatory FSH surge but not LH pulses. However, follicular deviation and late-stage growth of a single dominant follicle requires GnRH-dependent LH pulses.
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Vol. 88 • No. 6