Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sex and the female brain: Protein in semen acts on female brain to prompt ovulation

Date:
August 20, 2012
Source:
University of Saskatchewan
Summary:
Scientists have discovered that a protein in semen acts on the female brain to prompt ovulation, and is the same molecule that regulates the growth, maintenance, and survival of nerve cells.

Research by Roger Pierson, Gregg Adams and Karin van Straaten and colleagues shows that male mammals directly stimulate females to ovulate, raising intriguing questions about fertility.
Credit: Liam Richards for the University of Saskatchewan

An international team of scientists led by Gregg Adams at the University of Saskatchewan has discovered that a protein in semen acts on the female brain to prompt ovulation, and is the same molecule that regulates the growth, maintenance, and survival of nerve cells.

Related Articles


Male mammals have accessory sex glands that contribute seminal fluid to semen, but the role of this fluid and the glands that produce it are not well understood.

"From the results of our research, we now know that these glands produce large amounts of a protein that has a direct effect on the female," says Adams, a professor of veterinary biomedical sciences at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the U of S.

The work, which appears in the August 20, 2012 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), raises intriguing questions about fertility in mammals, including humans.

The team characterized the protein, dubbed ovulation-inducing factor (OIF), that they have found in the semen of all species of mammal they have looked at so far. In the process of discovering its identity, the team compared OIF to thousands of other proteins, including nerve growth factor (NGF) which is found primarily in nerve cells throughout the body.

"To our surprise, it turns out they are the same molecule," Adams says. "Even more surprising is that the effects of NGF in the female were not recognized earlier, since it's so abundant in seminal plasma."

While OIF/NGF may function differently from animal to animal, it is present in all mammals studied so far, from llamas, cattle and koalas to pigs, rabbits, mice, and humans. This implies an important role in reproduction in all mammals. Just how it works, its role in various species, and its clinical relevance to human infertility are a few of the questions that remain to be answered.

OIF/NGF in the semen acts as a hormonal signal, working through the hypothalamus of the female brain and the pituitary gland. This triggers the release of other hormones that signal the ovaries to release an egg (or eggs, depending on the species).

For this latest study, the team looked at two species: llamas and cattle. Llamas are "induced ovulators," that is, they ovulate only when they have been inseminated. Cows -- and humans -- are "spontaneous ovulators," meaning that a regular buildup of hormones stimulates the release of an egg.

Using a variety of techniques, the researchers compared OIF and NGF and found them to have the same size and to cause the same effects across species. Work at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron at the U of S confirmed the structure of the molecule.

"The idea that a substance in mammalian semen has a direct effect on the female brain is a new one," Adams explains. "This latest finding broadens our understanding of the mechanisms that regulate ovulation and raises some intriguing questions about fertility."

The team includes Marcelo Ratto and Ximena Valderrama from the Universidad Austral de Chile in Valdivia, Chile, as well as Adams, Yvonne Leduc, Karin van Straaten and Roger Pierson from the U of S.

This research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Alpaca Research Foundation, the Chilean National Science and Technology Research Council, the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Saskatchewan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Marcelo H. Ratto, Yvonne A. Leduc, Ximena P. Valderrama, Karin E. van Straaten, Louis T. J. Delbaere, Roger A. Pierson, and Gregg P. Adams. The nerve of ovulation-inducing factor in semen. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 20, 2012 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1206273109

Cite This Page:

University of Saskatchewan. "Sex and the female brain: Protein in semen acts on female brain to prompt ovulation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120820152100.htm>.
University of Saskatchewan. (2012, August 20). Sex and the female brain: Protein in semen acts on female brain to prompt ovulation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120820152100.htm
University of Saskatchewan. "Sex and the female brain: Protein in semen acts on female brain to prompt ovulation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120820152100.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Melafind: Spotting Melanoma Without a Biopsy

Melafind: Spotting Melanoma Without a Biopsy

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) The MelaFind device is a pain-free way to check suspicious moles for melanoma, without the need for a biopsy. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Battling Multiple Myeloma

Battling Multiple Myeloma

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) The answer isn’t always found in new drugs – repurposing an ‘old’ drug that could mean better multiple myeloma treatment, and hope. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chronic Inflammation and Prostate Cancer

Chronic Inflammation and Prostate Cancer

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) New information that is linking chronic inflammation in the prostate and prostate cancer, which may help doctors and patients prevent cancer in the future. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sickle Cell: Stopping Kids’ Silent Strokes

Sickle Cell: Stopping Kids’ Silent Strokes

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) Blood transfusions are proving crucial to young sickle cell patients by helping prevent strokes, even when there is no outward sign of brain injury. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins