Falchi, Laura and Taema, Maged M. and La Clanche, S. and Scaramuzzi, Rex J. (2012) The Pattern of cervical penetration and the effect of topical treatment with prostaglandin and/or FSH and oxytocin on the depth of cervical penetration in the ewe during the peri-ovulatory period. Theriogenology, Vol. 78 (2), p. 376-384. eISSN 1879-3231. Article.
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Artificial insemination in sheep has two major limiting factors: the poor quality of frozen-thawed ram semen and the convoluted anatomy of the sheep cervix that does not allow transcervical passage of an inseminating catheter. It has been demonstrated that in the ewe during estrus, there is a degree of cervical relaxation mediated by ovarian and possibly gonadotrohic hormones, and we set out to investigate factors that might enhance cervical relaxation. Five experiments were conducted on ewes of different breeds to determine: 1) the pattern of cervical penetration during the periovulatory period in ewes of several breeds (Welsh Mountain, Île-de-France, Vendéenne, Romanov and Sarda); 2) the effect of the “ram effect” a socio-sexual stimulus, on cervical penetration; and 3) the effects of the intracervical administration of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), oxytocin and a prostaglandin E agonist (misoprostol) on the depth of cervical penetration during the periovulatory period. The results showed that during the periovulatory period in all breeds examined, there was increased penetration of the cervical canal (P < 0.05) by an inseminating catheter. Cervical penetration increased to a maximum 54 h after the removal of progestagen sponges and then gradually declined. Furthermore, the depth of cervical penetration but not its pattern, was affected (P < 0.05) by the breed of ewe. The maximum depth of cervical penetration was lower (P < 0.05) in the Vendéenne breed compared to the Île-de-France and Romanov breeds, which did not differ from one another. In the presence of rams, the depth of cervical penetration was increased at 48 and 54 h after removal of sponges (P < 0.05) and reduced at 72 h (P < 0.05). The local administration of hormones FSH, misoprostol (a PGE agonist) and oxytocin alone and in various combinations did not have any significant effect on the depth of cervical penetration during the periovulatory period. In conclusion, the natural relaxation of the cervix observed in ewes of several breeds occurs at a time during estrus, 54 h after the removal of progestagen sponges, which is the most suitable for artificial insemination. The effect was enhanced by the presence of a ram but not by the local intracervical administration of FSH, misoprostol and oxytocin even though oxytocin and PGE2 are involved in cervical function. The time of maximum cervical penetration in the preovulatory period (54 h) coincides with high LH and estradiol concentrations suggesting they might be responsible for the relaxation of the cervix probably through an oxytocin-PGE mediated pathway.
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