To investigate the ovulatory mechanisms triggered by raw semen (RS) in rabbits, we examined the expression of nerve growth factor (NGF)—a supposed ovulation-inducing factor (OIF)—and cognate receptors in anterior pituitary, ovary, and cervix as well as plasma NGF and luteinizing hormone (LH) concentrations. Six does/group were sham-inseminated with sterile saline (PBS), naturally mated (NM), inseminated with RS alone or after lumbar anesthesia (ARS), or treatment with COX inhibitors (CIRS). Immunohistochemistry revealed positive signals for NGF and receptors in all tissues. RT-PCR confirmed the presence of the target transcripts in the same tissues, except NTRK1 in the cervix. Circulating NGF concentrations rose 3- to 6-fold (P < 0.01) 15 min after semen deposition into the genital tract of NM, RS, and ARS rabbits and remained sustained thereafter. Circulating NGF was 4-fold lower (P < 0.01) in CIRS than in RS does indicating that NGF is mainly synthesized by the uterus. A concomitant rise of LH and NGF concentrations was found in 83.3%, 50.0%, and 16.7% of NM, RS, and CIRS does, respectively, but not in ARS (despite high NGF circulating levels). Seminal plasma NGF concentration was 151.9 ± 9.25 µg/mL. The ovulatory responses were 0%, 83.3%, 66.7%, 16.7%, and 0% in PBS, NM, RS, ARS, and CIRS groups, respectively. Present data confirm that, although RS may induce ovulation via endocrine mechanisms through binding to NGF receptors in the ovary, a novel OIF-mediated neural mechanism facilitates ovulation in rabbits.
Raw semen induces ovulation in rabbits via an endocrine- and a nervous-mediated pathway by which NGF, mainly synthesized in the uterus, acts on the ovary and on uterine/cervix afferent neurons projecting LH surge hypothalamic centers, respectively.