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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2008

Conference Lecture: Influence of stress on estrus, gametes and early embryo development in the sow

Einarsson, Stig; Brandt, Ylva; Rodriguez, Heriberto; Madej, Andrzej


Systems with loose-housed sows have become common. Regrouping, which is commonly done after weaning and may coincide with many important reproductive events, causes stressful situations with elevated blood cortisol concentrations. Depending on group size, approximately 2-7 d are required for a new group of sows to become relatively stable. In a series of studies, the social stress after regrouping was simulated with repeated adrenocorticortriphic hormone (ACTH) treatments for approximately 48 h. Sows were allocated into control and experimental groups, fitted with jugular catheters, and blood samples were collected every 2 or 4 h. Follicular development and ovulation were monitored by transrectal ultrasonography every 4 h. Simulated stress during proestrus prolonged estrus and disturbed the follicular growth and ovulation. Giving ACTH during estrus elevated concentrations of cortisol and progesterone, and chagned the intraluminal environment, including exaggerated amounts of mucus in the UTJ and isthmus. Although ACTH had no effect on the time of ovluation (relative to onset of standing estrus), or on embryo development, fewer oocytes/embryos were retrieved from the ACTH group than from the control group (51% vs. 81%, P < 0.05), and there was a tendency towards faster embryo transportation to the uterus. Short-term fasting after ovulation had an unfavourable effect on sperm numbers in UTJ/isthmus, cleavage rate of fertlized ova, as well as ova transport through the isthmic part of the oviduct. Treatment with ACTH after ovulation redcued numbers of spermatozoa at the zona pellucida and retarded cleavage rate of fertilized ova. Therefore, the timing of stress seemed to be an important factor regarding effects on reproductive events. (C) 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Stress; Estrus; Gametes; Early embryo development

Published in

2008, Volume: 70, number: 8, pages: 1197-1201