Pattern of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) secretion leading up to ovulation in the ewe: existence of a preovulatory GnRH surge

Endocrinology. 1991 Sep;129(3):1175-82. doi: 10.1210/endo-129-3-1175.


We have previously shown LH surges induced by physiological estradiol levels are invariably accompanied by robust and sustained GnRH surges in the ewe. Such an increase, however, has not been observed consistently during the preovulatory LH surge. In the present study, we examined GnRH secretion in Suffolk and Ile de France ewes during the preovulatory period using a method for pituitary portal blood collection which allows simultaneous portal and jugular blood samples to be taken at frequent intervals for up to 48 h. Ewes were sampled either during the mid-late luteal phase (n = 8) or follicular phase (n = 20). During the follicular phase, a robust increase in GnRH secretion occurred at the onset of the LH surge in 11 of 12 ewes sampled during the LH surge. The GnRH increase in most ewes was a massive surge, reaching values averaging 40-fold greater than baseline and extending well beyond the end of the preovulatory LH surge. In the single ewe not exhibiting a GnRH surge during the LH surge, postmortem inspection indicated blood was probably not sampled from the pituitary portal vessels. In the early follicular phase, GnRH-pulse frequency was greater than that observed in the luteal phase and, within the follicular phase, GnRH-pulse frequency increased further and amplitude decreased as the surge approached. These data demonstrate GnRH secretion leading up to ovulation in the ewe is dynamic, beginning with slow pulses during the luteal phase, progressing to higher frequency pulses during the follicular phase and invariably culminating in a robust surge of GnRH. The LH surge, however, ends despite continued elevation of GnRH.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Estrus / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / blood
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Ovulation / physiology*
  • Progesterone / blood
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Sheep
  • Species Specificity


  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Progesterone
  • Estradiol
  • Luteinizing Hormone