Ovarian follicular dynamics, progesterone concentrations, pregnancy rates and transcriptional patterns in Bos indicus females with a high or low antral follicle count
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We evaluated the effect of the antral follicle count (AFC) on ovarian follicular dynamics, pregnancy rates, progesterone concentrations, and transcriptional patterns of genes in Nelore cattle (Bos taurus indicus) after a timed artificial insemination (TAI) programme. Cows were separated based on the AFC, and those with a high AFC showed a larger (P < 0.0001) ovarian diameter and area than those with a very low AFC. Females with a very low AFC exhibited a larger (P < 0.01) diameter of the dominant follicle at TAI (13.6 ± 0.3 vs. 12.2 ± 0.4 mm) and a tendency (P = 0.06) to have different serum progesterone concentrations (2.9 ± 0.3 vs. 2.1 ± 0.3 ng/mL; on day 18, considering day 0 as the beginning of the synchronization protocol) than those with a high AFC. The pregnancy rate was higher (P ≤ 0.05) in animals with a very low (57.9%) and low (53.1%) AFC than in those with a high AFC (45.2%). The expression of genes related to intercellular communication, meiotic control, epigenetic modulation, cell division, follicular growth, cell maintenance, steroidogenesis and cellular stress response was assessed on day 5. In females with a low AFC, 8 and 21 genes in oocytes and cumulus cells, respectively, were upregulated (P < 0.05), while 3 and 6 genes in oocytes and cumulus cells, respectively, were downregulated. The results described here will help elucidate the differences in ovarian physiology and the reproductive success of Bos indicus females with a low or high AFC.