Effect of aging on follicular function may be relieved by exogenous gonadotropin treatment in a sheep model

Fiammetta Berlinguer, Antonio Gonzalez-Bulnes, Antonio Spezzigu, Ignacio Contreras-Solis, Sara Succu, Alan S McNeilly, Salvatore Naitana, Giovanni G Leoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study investigated hormonal and ovarian changes during physiological reproductive aging in Sarda ewes. In a first experiment, follicular and corpus luteum dynamics were compared during an induced oestrus cycle in aged (12-14 years) and young adult ewes (4-5 years). Oestrus cycle characteristics did not differ between the two experimental groups. However, follicular function during the follicular phase showed significant alterations in aged ewes, as determined by a lack of dominance effect and by lower mean values of circulating oestradiol (E(2)) and inhibin levels, compared with young adult ewes. In a second experiment, differences in follicle growth, hormonal milieu and oocyte quality in response to exogenous FSH administration were assessed in aged and adult ewes. No differences were recorded in ovarian response to FSH treatment between young adult and aged ewes, as evaluated by ultrasonographic data and circulating concentrations of LH, E(2) and inhibin-A. Although the total number of recovered oocytes was similar in the two age groups, the number of good quality oocytes selected for IVM was significantly lower in aged ewes compared with adult ones. Thereafter, no differences were recorded in cleavage rates, total blastocyst output, embryo developmental kinetic and quality between aged and adult groups. In conclusion, this study demonstrated that reproductive aging in sheep is associated with impaired follicle functionality and an increase in the proportion of oocytes showing morphological abnormalities. However interestingly, oocyte developmental competence in vitro and embryo cryotolerance were not affected by the aging process, when only good quality oocytes were chosen.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-55
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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