Reproductive Hormone and Transcriptomic Responses of Pituitary Tissue in Anestrus Gilts Induced by Nutrient Restriction

<div><p>The onset of estrus is a critical sign of female sexual maturity. The pituitary plays a vital role in this process by the secretion of reproductive hormones. To investigate the effects of nutrient restriction on reproductive function and the underlying mechanisms involved, deep RNA sequencing of pituitary gland tissue was carried out to determine the differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between gilts in normal estrus, and gilts in which anestrus was induced by nutrient restriction. Gilts which had gone through two estrus cycles were fed a normal (CON, 2.86kg/d, n = 10) or nutrient restricted (NR, 1kg/d, n = 10) diet. The NR gilts experienced another three estrus cycles, but did not express estrus symptoms at the anticipated 6<sup>th</sup> and 7<sup>th</sup> cycles. Body weight gain in NR gilts was significantly decreased by nutrient restriction. Gilts were considered as anestrus when blood progesterone concentrations lower than 1.0 ng/mL from three consecutive blood samples were recorded. Circulating concentrations of progesterone (< 1.0 ng/mL vs. 2.1 ng/mL) and estradiol (208.6 ng/mL vs. 371.8 ng/mL) were significantly lower in the NR gilts than in the CON gilts. Between 5,360,000 and 5,370,000 sequence reads per sample from the CON and NR gilts’ pituitaries were obtained and mapped to the porcine genome. Analysis of read counts revealed 185 DEGs. Expression of selected genes was validated by the use of quantitative real-time RT-PCR. Bioinformatic analysis identified that the genes identified were enriched in the GO terms “neuroactive ligand-receptor interaction”, “GnRH signaling pathway” and “immune response system”. Our findings provide a new perspective for understanding the nutrient restriction-induced reproductive impairment at the pituitary transcriptional level, and how this is linked to hormone secretion. Moreover, the transcriptomic changes in anestrus gilts associated with nutrient restriction could be a resource for targeted studies of genes and pathways potentially involved in the regulation of reproductive function and animal health.</p></div>