The effect of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) on the concentrations of follicular fluid factors during follicle deviation and the development of dominance was studied in mares in two experiments. Transvaginal ultrasound guidance was used for intrafollicular injection and subsequent sequential sampling of follicular fluid. Treatment involved a single injection of IGF-I into the second-largest follicle (F2) at the expected beginning of deviation (Hour 0) based on diameter (≥20 mm) of the largest follicle (F1). Mares in IGF-I groups were given a dose of 500 μg (experiment 1) or 250, 25, or 2.5 μg (experiment 2). Ablation of F1 at Hour 24 was done in experiment 1, but not in experiment 2. The 500- and 250-μg doses stimulated growth, leading to ovulation of F2 in 10 of 10 and 4 of 5 mares in the two experiments, respectively, compared to 4 of 12 and 0 of 5 in saline-injected controls. These doses prevented (P < 0.05) the increase in IGF binding protein-2 and androstenedione that occurred in F2 of controls and increased (P < 0.05) the concentrations of activin-A, inhibin-A, and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The 500-μg dose stimulated higher (P < 0.05) concentrations of estradiol, but not until Hour 48, whereas the lower doses were ineffective. In experiment 2, free IGF-I concentrations in F2 at Hour 24 decreased progressively as the dose decreased so that concentrations for the 2.5-μg dose were higher (P < 0.05) than in F2 of controls and similar (not significantly different) to endogenous concentrations in F1. Correspondingly, concentrations of androstenedione in F2 at Hour 24 were lower (P < 0.05) and concentrations of activin-A, inhibin-A, and VEGF were higher (P < 0.05) after treatment of F2 with the 2.5-μg dose than in F2 of controls and were similar to concentrations in F1. Hence, a physiologic intrafollicular dose of IGF-I did not stimulate estradiol production but reduced the production of androstenedione and stimulated the production of activin-A, inhibin-A, and VEGF during follicle selection in mares.
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