The aim of this study was to determine the effects of maternal undernutrition during pregnancy on adult reproductive function in male and female offspring. Groups of ewes were fed rations providing either 100% (High, H) or 50% (Low, L) of estimated metabolisable energy (ME) requirements for pregnancy, from mating until day 95 of gestation, and thereafter were conventionally managed. At 20 months of age, LH and FSH profiles, and LH responses to exogenous GnRH were measured in male and female offspring and, in males, testicular responses to exogenous LH (as measured by testosterone concentrations) were also measured. Undernutrition had no effect on the mean birth weights of lambs of either sex, or on testicular size in male animals at either 6 weeks or 20 months of age. L males exhibited significantly higher FSH concentrations than H males (P < 0.05) but there were no differences with treatment in FSH profiles in females, basal LH profiles or gonadotrophin responses to GnRH in offspring of either sex, and no difference in basal testosterone concentrations or in the testosterone response to exogenous LH administration in males. Semen quality at 20 months of age was unaffected by pre-natal undernutrition but ovulation rate was significantly reduced in L compared to H female offspring (P < 0.05). It is concluded that pre-natal undernutrition had no effect on male reproductive development and adult function, but reduced ovulation rate in female progeny. This effect was not associated with a change in gonadotrophin profiles or pituitary responsiveness. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
- ovulation rate
- semen quality