In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that short-term fasting would reduce leptin gene expression, circulating leptin, and LH pulsatility in prepubertal heifers in association with a decrease in circulating concentrations of insulin and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I). Twelve prepubertal crossbred heifers (mean ± SD = 315 ± 5 kg body weight) were assigned randomly to one of two treatments in two replicates: 1) control; normal feed consumption (n = 6) and 2) fasted; 48 h of total feed restriction (n = 6). Blood samples were collected at 15-min intervals for 8 h on Days 0 and 2 of the experiment and twice on Day 1. Subcutaneous fat samples were collected before treatment onset (Day −1) and at the end of the intensive blood sampling on Day 2. Acute feed restriction markedly reduced leptin mRNA in adipose tissue (P < 0.01) and circulating concentrations of leptin (P < 0.05), IGF-I (P < 0.01), and insulin (P = 0.05) as compared with controls on Day 2. Moreover, the treatment × day interaction (P < 0.076) and within-day contrasts (expressed as a percentage of Day 0 values) revealed that the mean frequency of LH pulses in the fasted group was lower (P < 0.06) than in controls on Day 2. Neither mean concentrations of growth hormone (GH) nor GH secretory dynamics were affected by acute feed restriction. Fasting-mediated decreases in leptin gene expression and circulating leptin, in association with reductions in secretion of IGF-I, insulin, and LH, provide a basis for investigating leptin as a hormone signaling energy status to the central reproductive axis in cattle.
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