Excessive ovarian follicular development in pregnant pigtailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina)



To evaluate the status and possible control of ovarian follicular development during pregnancy, circulating levels of estrone (E1), estradiol-17β (E2), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) were measured throughout gestation in both intact and ovariectomized pregnant pigtailed monkeys (Macaca nemestrina). From an additional group of pregnant monkeys, ovaries were obtained at late gestation (on day 150 or 159 of pregnancy) for histological studies. Circulating concentrations of E1 and E2 increased on day 13 and remained elevated for about 10 days; they then declined and reached low levels on day 32 of gestation. After day 60, there were gradual but smaller increases in estrogen levels to day 140, after which both E1 and E2 levels increased significantly, reaching maximum levels (E1 = 832.2 ± 210.8 pg/ ml; E2 = 1.66 ± 0.32 ng/ml) at the end of pregnancy. Removal of ovaries on day 35 of gestation did not affect pregnancy or the pattern of estrogen secretion. Serum concentrations of FSH demonstrated only minor fluctuations during pregnancy but were similar to those found during the early follicular phase of cycling pigtailed monkeys investigated in this study. Ovarian histology revealed extensive follicular growth; in addition to the corpus luteum of pregnancy, ovaries were packed with pre-antral, small antral, and medium-sized Graafian follicles. Some of these follicles appeared to be cystic and showed various degree of atresia; their general appearance was similar to the follicles of human females with polycystic ovary syndrome. Our data suggest that FSH may initiate ovarian follicular growth during gestation. High levels of estrogens were incapable of suppressing FSH secretion but may be responsible for the induction of atresia in a large number of follicles in pregnant pigtailed monkeys.