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Keywords:

  • Immunocontraception;
  • immunoglobulin;
  • rabbit;
  • rPH-20

PROBLEM: Successful immunocontraception using sperm antigens is dependent on achieving sufficient sperm-specific antibody in the reproductive ducts to prevent fertilization. The blood : luminal barrier of the male and female reproductive ducts must be overcome for this to occur. We have, therefore, investigated the relative titers of antigen-specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) in luminal fluids collected from male and female rabbit reproductive ducts following immunization with recombinant rabbit PH-20 (rPH-20).

METHOD OF STUDY: Male and female rabbits were immunized subcutaneously with rPH-20 in Freund's adjuvant. Reproductive tract fluids and plasma were collected and assayed for specific IgG by enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay (ELISA). Plasma anti-rPH-20 antibodies were tested for their ability to inhibit in vitro fertilization.

RESULTS: Plasma rPH-20-specific IgG titers of >21 × 106 were induced in bucks. Antibody levels in the rete testis and cauda epididymidis fluids were only 0.026 and 0.168% of plasma levels, respectively. Plasma IgG titers were >30 × 106 in does, but antibody levels in free flow vaginal fluid, free flow uterine fluid and free flow oviduct fluid were only 0.016, 0.078 and 0.072% of plasma levels, respectively. Induction of ovulation by administration of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) significantly increased rPH-20-specific IgG only in free flow vaginal fluids. Plasma antibody from immunized rabbits inhibited in vitro fertilization but conception rates following mating of rPH-20 immunized male to untreated female rabbits were not affected.

CONCLUSIONS: The IgG antibody entry into the reproductive ducts of both male and female rabbits is restricted to less than 0.2% of levels induced in plasma following subcutaneous immunization. This finding raises doubts about the suitability of rPH-20 to induce immunocontraception in rabbits using strategies optimized for induction of a serum antibody response. Whether mucosal immunization strategies can achieve this remains to be tested.