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Department of Animal Sciences
The Robert H. Smith Faculty
of Agricultural, Food & Environment

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Herzl 229, Rehovot 7610001, Israel
Phone: +972-(0)8-9489119;
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Roth, Z. ; Kressel, Y. Z. ; Lavon, Y. ; Kalo, D. ; Wolfenson, D. Administration of GnRH at Onset of Estrus, Determined by Automatic Activity Monitoring, to Improve Dairy Cow Fertility during the Summer and Autumn. ANIMALS 2021, 11.Abstract
Simple Summary We used an automatic activity-monitoring system to determine onset of estrus in dairy cows. Within 5 h of onset, we administered a single injection of GnRH analogue to improve fertility during the summer and autumn. The treatment increased pregnancy per insemination during the autumn, but not in the summer. The subgroups for which the treatment specifically tended to improve conception risk during the autumn were: mature (2nd plus parity) cows and cows with uterine disease and ketosis after calving. Detection of estrus onset by activity monitoring and GnRH administration shortly thereafter could be incorporated into a synchronization program, to improve fertility of positively-responding subpopulations of cows. We examined gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) administration at onset of estrus (OE), determined by automatic activity monitoring (AAM), to improve fertility of dairy cows during the summer and autumn. The study was performed on two dairy farms in Israel. The OE was determined by AAM recorded every 2 h, and a single im dose of GnRH analogue was administered shortly after OE. Pregnancy was determined by transrectal palpation, 40 to 45 d after artificial insemination (AI). Conception risk was analyzed by the GLIMMIX procedure of SAS. Brief visual observation of behavioral estrus indicated that about three-quarters of the events (n = 40) of visually detected OE occurred within 6 h of AAM-detected OE. Accordingly, the GnRH analogue was administered within 5 h of AAM-detected OE, to overlap with the expected endogenous preovulatory LH surge. Overall, pregnancy per AI (P/AI) was monitored over the entire experimental period (summer and autumn) in 233 first, second or third AI (116 and 117 AI for treated and control groups, respectively). Least square means of P/AI for treated (45.8%) and control (39.4%) groups did not differ, but group-by-season interaction tended to differ (p = 0.07), indicating no effect of treatment in the summer and a marked effect of GnRH treatment (n = 58 AI) compared to controls (n = 59 AI) on P/AI in the autumn (56.6% vs. 28.5%, p < 0.03). During the autumn, GnRH-treated mature cows (second or more lactations), and postpartum cows exhibiting metabolic and uterine diseases, tended to have much larger P/AI than their control counterparts (p = 0.07-0.08). No effect of treatment was recorded in the autumn in first parity cows or in uninfected, healthy cows. In conclusion, administration of GnRH within 5 h of AAM-determined OE improved conception risk in cows during the autumn, particularly in those exhibiting uterine or metabolic diseases postpartum and in mature cows. Incorporation of the proposed GnRH treatment shortly after AAM-detected OE into a synchronization program is suggested, to improve fertility of positively responding subpopulations of cows.
Roth, Z. ; Dvir, A. ; Furman, O. ; Lavon, Y. ; Kalo, D. ; Leitner, G. ; Wolfenson, D. Oocyte maturation in plasma or follicular fluid obtained from lipopolysaccharide-treated cows disrupts its developmental competence. Theriogenology 2020, 141, 120-127. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Mastitis has deleterious effects on ovarian function and reproductive performance. We studied the association between plasma or follicular fluid (FF) obtained from endotoxin-induced mastitic cows, and oocyte developmental competence. Lactating Holstein cows were synchronized using the Ovsynch protocol. On Day 6 of the synchronized cycle, an additional PGF2α dose was administered, and either Escherichia coli endotoxin (LPS, 10 μg; n = 3 cows) or saline (n = 3 cows) was administered to one udder quarter per cow, 36 h later. Milk samples were collected and rectal temperatures recorded. Cows treated with LPS showed a typical transient increase in body temperature (40.3 °C ± 0.4), whereas cows treated with saline maintained normal body temperature (38.9 °C ± 0.04). A higher (P < 0.05) somatic cell count was recorded for cows treated with LPS. Plasma samples were collected and FF was aspirated from the preovulatory follicles by transvaginal ultrasound probe, 6 h after LPS administration. Radioimmunoassay was performed on plasma samples to determine estradiol and cortisol concentrations. Either FF or plasma was further used as maturation medium. In the first experiment, oocytes were matured in TCM-199 (Control) or in FF aspirated from cows treated with saline (FF-Saline) or LPS (FF-LPS). Cleavage rate to the 2- to 4-cell stage embryo did not differ among groups. However, the proportion of developed blastocysts on Day 7 postfertilization in the FF-LPS group tended to be lower for that in FF-Saline and was lower (P < 0.05) than that in the Control groups (10.6 vs. 22.4 and 24.4%, respectively). In the second experiment, oocytes were matured in TCM-199 (Control), or in plasma obtained from cows treated with saline (Plasma-Saline) or LPS (Plasma-LPS). Similar to the FF findings, cleavage rate did not differ among groups; however, the proportion of developing blastocysts tended to be lower in the Plasma-LPS group than in the Plasma-Saline group and was lower (P < 0.05) from that in the Control group (11.0 vs. 25.5 and 34.7%, respectively). The proportion of apoptotic cells per blastocyst, determined by TUNEL assay, did not differ among the experimental groups. The findings shed light on the mechanism by which mastitis induces a disruption in oocyte developmental competence. Further studies are required to clarify whether the negative effect on oocyte developmental competence is a result of LPS, by itself, or due to elevation of secondary inflammatory agents. © 2019
Wolfenson, D. ; Roth, Z. Impact of heat stress on cow reproduction and fertility. Animal Frontiers 2019, 9 32-38. Publisher's Version
Roth, Z. ; Asaf, S. ; Furman, O. ; Lavon, Y. ; Kalo, D. ; Wolfenson, D. ; Leitner, G. Subclinical mastitis disrupts oocyte cytoplasmic maturation in association with reduced developmental competence and impaired gene expression in preimplantation bovine embryos. Reproduction, Fertility and Development 2016, 28, 1653 - 1662. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Subclinical chronic mastitis was induced to examine the effects on oocyte developmental competence. Uninfected Holstein cows were intramammary administrated with serial (every 48 h for 20 days) low doses of toxin of Staphylococcus aureus origin (Gram-positive; G+), endotoxin of Escherichia coli origin (Gram-negative; G–) or sterile saline (control). Follicular fluid of toxin- and saline-treated cows was aspirated from preovulatory follicles and used as maturation medium. Oocytes harvested from ovaries collected at the abattoir were matured and then fertilised and cultured for 8 days. The percentage of oocytes undergoing nuclear maturation, determined by meiotic nuclear stages, did not differ between groups. Cytoplasmic maturation, determined by cortical granule distribution, was affected by both toxins (P < 0.05). The percentage of oocytes cleaving to 2- and 4-cell embryos and of embryos developing to the blastocyst stage was lower in both toxin-treated groups than in the control group (P < 0.05). There was no significant difference in the total cell number in Day 8 blastocysts among the groups; however, the apoptotic index was higher in both toxin-treated groups compared with control (P < 0.05). The relative abundance of prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2 (prostaglandin G/H synthase and cyclo-oxygenase; PTGS2) mRNA increased, whereas that of growth differentiation factor 9 (GDF9) decreased in matured oocytes. In addition, PTGS2 expression increased and POU class 5 homeobox 1 (POU5F1) expression decreased in 4-cell embryos developed from both G+ and G– oocytes. Thus, regardless of toxin type, subclinical mastitis disrupts oocyte cytoplasmic maturation and alters gene expression in association with reduced developmental competence.
Roth, Z. ; Wolfenson, D. Comparing the effects of heat stress and mastitis on ovarian function in lactating cows: basic and applied aspects. 8th International Conference on Farm Animal Endocrinology 2016, 56, S218 - S227. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Reduced reproductive performance of lactating cows is strongly associated with environmental and pathogenic stressors. This review summarizes the most recent knowledge on the effects of acute or chronic heat stress (HS) and acute or chronic intramammary infection (IMI) on ovarian function. It also offers various approaches for improving the fertility of cows under chronic HS or IMI. Comparing the 2 stressors reveals a few similarities in the mode of alteration in the hypothalamus–pituitary–ovarian axis, in particular, in the follicle and its enclosed oocyte. Both HS and IMI cause a reduction in the preovulatory LH surge, with a pronounced effect in cows with IMI, and consequently, ovulation is being delayed or inhibited. Both stresses induce changes in follicular growth dynamics, reduce follicular steroidogenesis, and disrupt follicular dominance. Unlike their effects on follicular function, the effects of mastitis and HS on corpus luteum (CL) function are debatable. Under chronic summer thermal stress, several, but not all, studies show reduced progesterone secretion by the CL. Subclinical mastitis does not affect CL function, whereas the effect of clinical mastitis is controversial; some show a reduction in progesterone, whereas others do not. Both stresses have been found to impair cytoplasmic and nuclear maturation of oocytes, associated with reduced embryonic development. These findings have provided insights into the mechanism by which HS and IMI compromise fertility, which enable developing new strategies to mitigate these effects. For instance, treatment with GnRH and PGF2α to induce follicular turnover successfully improved conception rate in subpopulations of HS cows during the summer, in particular, primiparous cows and cows with high BCS. The “Ovsynch” program, also based on the use of GnRH and PGF2α, has been shown to improve conception rate of subclinical mastitic cows, most likely due to better synchronization of timing of ovulation with that of AI. Supplementing progesterone after AI improves conception rate of HS cows, particularly those with postpartum uterine disease and low BCS. It should be noted that similarities between the 2 stressors do not necessarily suggest a shared mechanism. Although not clear enough, an additive deleterious effects of HS and IMI on reproduction is suggested.