Post natal oestrogen administration stimulates precocious endometrial gland development in the horse

Authors

  • S. WILSHER,

    1. The Paul Mellon Laboratory of Equine Reproduction (formerly The Equine Fertility Unit), 3 Tower Stables, Cheveley Park, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 9DE, UK
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  • A.-C. LEFRANC,

    1. The Paul Mellon Laboratory of Equine Reproduction (formerly The Equine Fertility Unit), 3 Tower Stables, Cheveley Park, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 9DE, UK
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  • W. R. ALLEN

    Corresponding author
    1. The Paul Mellon Laboratory of Equine Reproduction (formerly The Equine Fertility Unit), 3 Tower Stables, Cheveley Park, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 9DE, UK
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The Paul Mellon Laboratory of Equine Reproduction (formerly The Equine Fertility Unit), 3 Tower Stables, Cheveley Park, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 9DE, UK

Summary

Reasons for performing study: Fillies completely devoid of endometrial glands (uterine gland knockout; UGKO) would make ideal experimental models in which to study the role of endometrial histotroph in embryogenesis and early fetal development in the mare.

Hypothesis: Administration of a synthetic progestagen plus oestrogen to newborn filly foals and, thereafter, at regular intervals to age 6 months, would permanently suppress endometrial gland development.

Methods: Nine half-sister Thoroughbred filly foals were treated, in 3 groups, with: A) the weakly active progestagen, norgestomet, administered from birth to age 6 months, in subcutaneous implant form plus oestradiol valerate and norgestomet i.m. at fortnightly intervals; B) the strongly active oral progestagen, altrenogest, administered daily from birth to age 6 months plus fortnightly injections of oestradiol valerate and norgestomet; C) nothing (untreated controls). Endometrial biopsies were recovered from all fillies at ages 6 months and 2 years to assess the degree of endometrial gland morphogenesis and to determine immunohistochemically the presence or absence of oestrogen and progesterone receptors in the endometrial tissues.

Results: Groups B and C showed no endometrial gland development, whereas Group A fillies showed a high degree of endometrial gland development, plus strong staining for both oestrogen and progesterone receptors at age 6 months. All 9 fillies showed full normal endometrial gland morphogenesis, development and function at age 2 years.

Conclusions and relevance: While the administration of a strongly active progestagen over-rode the actions of the concomitantly administered oestrogen and suppressed endometrial gland development during the period of administration, treatment with oestradiol valerate together with a weakly active progestagen, stimulated precocious endometrial gland development. Neither steroid was able to create the desired UGKO experimental model and all fillies showed normal endometrial gland development and fertility after puberty. Hence, ovarian oestrogen, not progesterone, appears to be the basic stimulus for endometrial gland morphogenesis in the horse.

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