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Characterization of Ovarian Steroid Patterns in Female African Lions (Panthera leo), and the Effects of Contraception on Reproductive Function.

PloS one (2015-10-16)
Sarah B Putman, Janine L Brown, Ashley D Franklin, Emily C Schneider, Nicole P Boisseau, Cheryl S Asa, Budhan S Pukazhenthi
ABSTRACT

Because of poor reproduction after the lifting of an 8-year breeding moratorium, a biomedical survey of female lions in U.S. zoos was initiated in 2007. Fecal estrogen (FEM), progestagen (FPM) and glucocorticoid (FGM) metabolites were analyzed in samples collected 3-4 times per wk from 28 lions at 17 facilities (0.9-13.8 yr of age) for 4 mo-3.5 yr and body weights were obtained ~monthly from 17 animals at eight facilities (0.0-3.0 yr of age). Based on FEM, estrous cycle length averaged 17.5 ± 0.4 d in duration, with estrus lasting 4.4 ± 0.2 d. All but one female exhibited waves of estrogenic activity indicative of follicular activity; however, not all females expressed estrous behaviors (73%), suggesting silent estrus was common. Female lions experienced puberty earlier than expected; waves of estrogenic activity were observed as young as 1.1 yr of age, which may be related to a faster growth rate of captive vs. wild lions. Mean gestation length was 109.5 ± 1.0 d, whereas the non-pregnant luteal phase was less than half (46.0 ± 1.2 d). Non-mating induced increases in FPM were observed in 33% of females housed without a male, consistent with spontaneous ovulation. A number of study animals had been contracepted, and the return to cyclicity after treatment withdrawal, while variable, was ~4.0 yr and longer than the 1-yr expected efficacy, especially for those implanted with Suprelorin. For FGM, there were no differences in overall, baseline or peak mean concentrations among the age groups or across seasons, nor were there any relationships between reproductive parameters and FGM concentrations. Overall, results suggest that poor reproduction in lions after the breeding moratorium was not related to altered adrenal or ovarian steroid activity, but for some females may have been a consequence of individual institutions' management decisions.

MATERIALS
Product Number
Brand
Product Description

Sigma-Aldrich
Hydrocortisone, ≥98% (HPLC)
Sigma-Aldrich
Progesterone, ≥99%
Sigma-Aldrich
N,N-Dimethylformamide, for molecular biology, ≥99%
Sigma-Aldrich
β-Estradiol, analytical standard