Reproduction In Domestic Animals, vol.44, no.4, pp.593-599, 2009 (Peer-Reviewed Journal)
This study was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a luteinizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH) fusion protein immunization on reproductive traits in ram lambs including the changes in histology and ultrasonographic appearance of testis. Thirty native ram lambs at 19 weeks of age were divided into control (C, n = 10), immunization (I, n = 10) and castration (E, n = 10) groups. Animals in immunization group were immunized against LHRH using ovalbumin-LHRH-7 (OL) protein generated by recombinant DNA technology as a primary and a booster injection at 19 and 23 weeks of age respectively. Animals were bled via jugular venepuncture at 2-week intervals to determine LHRH antibody and testosterone concentrations. Bi-weekly ultrasonographic examination of the testes was performed to determine the changes in ultrasonographic appearance as the age increased. Biopsied testicular tissues taken at 19, 29 and 41 weeks age were also evaluated. At 41 weeks of age, animals were slaughtered. Semen and epididymis were evaluated for the presence of sperm cells. Testicular development and sperm production were suppressed in the immunized animals. Semineferous tubule diameters decreased, basal membrane of the tubule was thickened and hyalinized in immunized ram lambs. While testes of control animals gained their normal ultrasonographic appearance as the age increased, immunized animals had uniform hypoechogenic testicular structure as observed at 19 weeks of age until slaughter. Simultaneous histological and ultrasonographic evaluations indicated that the changes in testicular histology could partly be monitored via ultrasonographic imaging. Nevertheless, it is difficult to claim that ultrasonographic image reflects the exact changes in such instances. In conclusion, these results indicate that recombinant OL fusion protein is effective in immunocastration in ram lambs and has a potential to be used as an alternative to physical castration. Further research studies should be conducted to help assess reproductive status of testes from ultrasound images.