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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Comparison of pregnancy rates, progesterone concentrations, and expression of genes associated with progesterone synthesis in heifers and mature cows Balendran, Anusha


It has been reported world wide that over the past fifty years production has dramatically increased in dairy cattle but at the same time fertility rates have steadily declined, particularly in mature cows. Fertility of heifers that were bred for the first time has not been affected. One of the major reasons for such fertility decline in mature cows could be impaired progesterone production. Therefore relationships of parity with reproductive performance, its effect on progesterone concentrations and genes associated with progesterone synthesis were examined in this thesis. In the first experiment, breeding records of 163 Holstein heifers and cows in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd/4th parities were used to compare pregnancy rates among heifers and parity cows and between parity cows. Progesterone levels of heifers, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd/4th parity (10 animals each group) were measured from milk and blood samples. First and second inseminations pregnancy rates were higher in heifers compared to other parity cows. Furthermore 1st parity cows showed higher pregnancy rates than 2nd and 3rd/4th parity cows. However, P₄ levels were not significantly different among animals of different parity. In the second experiment, expression levels of steroidogenic genes – StAR, P450scc, 3-β HSD; apoptotic genes Bax and Bcl-2; and HSP70 in corpus luteum obtained from six heifers and three 2nd/3rd parity lactating cows were compared using RT-PCR. Relative optical density with house keeping gene was obtained for each gene. Analysis of variance revealed that expression levels of steroidogenic and Bax genes are higher (p<0.05) in cows than heifers. HSP70 gene and Bcl-2 gene expressions were not different (P>0.05) between the two groups. This study confirmed a clear relationship between parity and reproductive performance. There was no significance relationship between parity and circulating progesterone levels. Steroidogenic genes expression was higher in lactating cows than heifers and no differences were seen in mRNA levels of Bcl2, and HSP70 genes between heifers and mature cows. Bax mRNA expression was higher in mature cows suggesting that the lifespan of corpus luteum may be compromised in 2nd and 3rd parity cows, resulting in early embryonic mortality and reduced pregnancy rates.

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