Prenatal testosterone excess leads to neuroendocrine, ovarian, and metabolic disruptions, culminating in reproductive phenotypes mimicking that of women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The objective of this study was to determine the consequences of prenatal testosterone treatment on periovulatory hormonal dynamics and ovulatory outcomes. To generate prenatal testosterone-treated females, pregnant sheep were injected intramuscularly (days 30–90 of gestation, term = 147 days) with 100 mg of testosterone-propionate in cottonseed oil semi-weekly. Female offspring born to untreated control females and prenatal testosterone-treated females were then studied during their first two breeding seasons. Sheep were given two injections of prostaglandin F2alpha 11 days apart, and blood samples were collected at 2-h intervals for 120 h, 10-min intervals for 8 h during the luteal phase (first breeding season only), and daily for an additional 15 days to characterize changes in reproductive hormonal dynamics. During the first breeding season, prenatal testosterone-treated females manifested disruptions in the timing and magnitude of primary gonadotropin surges, luteal defects, and reduced responsiveness to progesterone negative feedback. Disruptions in the periovulatory sequence of events during the second breeding season included: 1) delayed but increased preovulatory estradiol rise, 2) delayed and severely reduced primary gonadotropin surge in prenatal testosterone-treated females having an LH surge, 3) tendency for an amplified secondary FSH surge and a shift in the relative balance of FSH regulatory proteins, and 4) luteal responses that ranged from normal to anovulatory. These outcomes are likely to be of relevance to developmental origin of infertility disorders and suggest that differences in fetal exposure or fetal susceptibility to testosterone may account for the variability in reproductive phenotypes.
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Vol. 78 • No. 4