The objective was to determine the pattern of IGFBP-2, -3 and -4 gene expression and follicular fluid concentrations of IGFBP-2, -3, -4 and -5 during emergence, selection and dominance of the first follicle wave of the estrous cycle in cattle and during exogenous steroid treatment. Heifers (n = 35) were ovariectomized at 36 (n = 7), 66 (n = 8), 84 (n = 12) and 108 (n = 8) h after the onset of estrus. Heifers in the 84 h ovariectomy group were sub-divided to receive either no treatment (n = 6) or were treated with a progesterone-releasing intravaginal device (n = 6, PRID) and 0.75 mg estradiol benzoate i.m. at the approximate time of ovulation, 30 h post estrus until ovariectomy. Within heifers the four largest follicles recovered following ovariectomy were ranked on size (F1, F2, F3 and F4). At 36 h IGFBP gene expression and follicular fluid IGFBP concentrations were similar in all follicles (F1-F4). Mean diameter of the F1 follicle increased (P < 0.05) between 36 and 84 h with no difference between 84 and 108 h. The F1 follicle had the highest (P < 0.05) concentration of estradiol compared with the F2, F3 and F4 at 84 and 108 h. There was no granulosa cell IGFBP-2 mRNA in F1 follicles at 84 or 108 h. Intrafolliclar IGFBP-2 concentrations were lower (P < 0.05) in the F1 compared with F3 and F4 follicles at 108 h. There was no difference in theca cell IGFBP-4 mRNA expression at 108h, but amounts of follicular fluid IGFBP-4 were lower (P < 0.05) in F1 follicles compared with F3 and F4 follicles at 108 h. IGFBP-3 mRNA was localized in the theca layer of all follicles examined with no difference in expression or follicular fluid concentrations during emergence, selection and dominance of the first follicle wave. IGFBP-5 concentrations were higher (P < 0.05) in follicular fluid of F3 follicles at 108 h compared with the F3 at 36 h. In conclusion follicular dominance was associated with low or decreased follicular fluid concentrations of IGFBP-4 and -5, increased estradiol and differential regulation of IGFBP production.
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