The estradiol-induced surge of gonadotropin-releasing hormone in the ewe

Endocrinology. 1990 Sep;127(3):1375-84. doi: 10.1210/endo-127-3-1375.


Previous studies suggest two roles for estradiol in inducing the LH surge in ewes: a neural action to evoke a sudden release of GnRH and a pituitary action to maximize response to GnRH. We tested two hypotheses: a follicular phase estradiol rise induces a GnRH surge; and the surge-inducing action of estradiol does not vary with season. In the breeding season, ewes in the midluteal phase of the estrous cycle were ovariectomized and treated with implants producing luteal phase levels of estradiol and progesterone, and an apparatus was surgically installed for later sampling of pituitary portal blood. At the normal time of luteolysis (1 week later), progesterone implants were removed, simulating luteal regression. Ewes were divided into two groups: estradiol implants also removed (n = 6) and estradiol implants added 16 h after progesterone removal to produce a rise in estradiol to levels that mimic those that circulate in the late follicular phase (n = 6). In anestrus, the estradiol rise treatment was replicated in ewes (n = 5) after an artificial luteal phase produced by sequential insertion and subsequent removal of progesterone implants. Regardless of season, the LH surge induced by estradiol was invariably accompanied by a massive GnRH surge, ranging from 73- to 394-fold over presurge values. The GnRH and LH surges began together, but the GnRH surge continued well beyond the surge of LH. There was no seasonal difference in time course or amplitude of the GnRH surge. Control ewes not treated with estradiol exhibited regular pulses of LH and GnRH every 1-2 h, but no surge of either hormone. We conclude that, regardless of season, a rise in estradiol to late follicular phase levels initiates a large and abrupt GnRH surge coincident with the onset of the LH surge. The LH surge 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

  • Anestrus / physiology
  • Animals
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Estradiol / pharmacology*
  • Estrus / physiology
  • Female
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Luteinizing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Ovariectomy
  • Progesterone / administration & dosage
  • Progesterone / blood
  • Progesterone / pharmacology
  • Seasons
  • Sheep


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