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Follistatin, muscle development, puberty and fertility in ewe lambs

Rosales Nieto, C.A., Ferguson, M.B., Macleay, C., Briegel, J., Hedger, M.P., Martin, G.B. and Thompson, A.N. (2012) Follistatin, muscle development, puberty and fertility in ewe lambs. In: EAAP, 63rd Annual Meeting of the European Association of Animal Production, 27 - 31 August, Bratislava, Slovakia.


It has been thought that females must accumulate a certain mass of body fat before they can go through puberty and maintain fertility but this theory is being challenged because muscle development also seems to be linked to fecundity. Body fat and reproduction are linked physiologically by leptin, but a link among increased muscling and reproduction has not been explored. One possible link is follistatin (FS), a key player in the regulation of both muscle development and follicle-stimulating hormone secretion. We assessed the relationships between breeding values for muscling, the onset of puberty and fertility, and circulating PS concentrations in Merino ewe lambs (n=136) To detect onset of puberty, testosterone-treated wethers were run with the lambs from 6 to 8 months of age and then replaced by entire rams. Blood FS concentrations determined by RIA decreased as puberty approached and increased as conception approached. The proportion of ewe lambs that attained puberty decreased as FS values increased (P<0.05), but FS concentration had no effect on fertility. We conclude that FS secretion is related to the onset of puberty but not fertility of Merino ewe lambs. The data presented do not imply a cause-effect relationship; however, further research is necessary to clarify the effect of circulating FS on reproductive traits in Merino ewe lambs.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
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