Hormone secretion in the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus): Characterization of ovulatory and anovulatory luteinizing hormone surges


In the elephant, two distinct LH surges occur 3 wk apart during the nonluteal phase of the estrous cycle, but only the second surge (ovLH) induces ovulation. The function of the first, anovulatory surge (anLH) is unknown, nor is it clear what regulates the timing of these two surges. To further study this observation in the Asian elephant, serum concentrations of LH, FSH, progesterone, inhibin, estradiol, and prolactin were quantified throughout the estrous cycle to establish temporal hormonal relationships. To examine long-term dynamics of hormone secretion, analyses were conducted in weekly blood samples collected from 3 Asian elephants for up to 3 yr. To determine whether differences existed in secretory patterns between the anLH and ovLH surges, daily blood samples were analyzed from 21 nonluteal-phase periods from 7 Asian elephants. During the nonluteal phase, serum LH was elevated for 1-2 days during anLH and ovLH surges with no differences in peak concentration between the two surges. The anLH surge occurred 19.9 ± 1.2 days after the end of the luteal phase and was followed by the ovLH surge 20.8 ± 0.5 days later. Serum FSH concentrations were highest at the beginning of the nonluteal phase and gradually declined to nadir concentrations within 4 days of the ovLH surge. FSH remained low until after the ovLH surge and then increased during the luteal phase. Serum inhibin concentrations were negatively correlated with FSH during the nonluteal phase (r = -0.53). Concentrations of estradiol and prolactin fluctuated throughout the estrous cycle with no discernible patterns evident. In sum, there were no clear differences in associated hormone secretory patterns between the anLH and ovLH surge. However, elevated FSH at the beginning of the nonluteal phase may be important for follicle recruitment, with the first anLH surge acting to complete the follicle selection process before ovulation.


Animal Science

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Biology of Reproduction