Associations between insulin-like factor 3, scrotal circumference and semen characteristics in young Norwegian Red bulls
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionAnimal. 2023, 17:100713 (3), 1-7. 10.1016/j.animal.2023.100713
With the integration of genomic selection in the cattle artificial insemination (AI) industry, bulls are selected for their semen production capacity and fertility at a younger age than previously. Norwegian Red bull calves selected as candidates to become future AI bulls based on their genomic breeding value are kept in a performance testing station from around the age of 3–12 months, allowing for sample collection and analysis of different parameters during their pre- and peripubertal period. Insulin-like factor 3 (INSL3) is a small peptide hormone specifically secreted by the mature Leydig cells of the testes. In the foetus, it induces the first phase of testicular descent and is considered to reflect Leydig cell development during puberty; it could therefore be an interesting early indicator of future semen production capacity. The main objective of our study was to evaluate the relationship between INSL3, scrotal circumference (SC), and semen characteristics. This is the first time INSL3 was measured in the Norwegian Red population. We collected blood samples for analysis of INSL3 from 142 Norwegian Red bulls at the performance testing station and measured their SC on the same day. Altogether, measurements were made at four time points: upon arrival at the performance testing station (quarantine (Q): 2–5 months) and later at approximately 6, 9 and 12 months of age. Information on season and place of birth were made available from the database of the breeding company Geno, together with data on semen characteristics from the test station and the AI station. The median SCs for age groups Q, 6, 9, and 12 were 15, 21.5, 29, and 34 cm, respectively. INSL3 was shown to be positively correlated with SC (R = 0.4) but not with any of the semen characteristics. Similarly, we found no correlation between SC and sperm characteristics from data on ejaculates analysed at the performance testing station and AI station. The mean sperm volume for the 31 selected bulls with at least 10 ejaculates produced in the AI station increased from 2.3 ml at the performance testing station to 6.4 ml at the AI station. The corresponding increase in mean sperm concentration was from 497 million/ml to 1 049 million/ml. We conclude that INSL3 exhibits high inter-individual variability in the Norwegian Red bull population, which cannot be explained by the parameters measured in this study. At present, INSL3 cannot be used as a biomarker of sperm production in this breed.