Plasma Progesterone Levels during Pregnancy in the Little Brown Bat Myotis Lucifugus (Vespertilionidae)1
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Plasma progesterone was measured by radioimmunoassay in individual female Myotis lucifugus throughout pregnancy and lactation. Progesterone levels, which averaged 6.7 +/- 0.7 ng/ml in late hibernation, rose to a mean of 18.9 +/- 6.7 ng/ml in unimplanted bats collected in the first two weeks after arrival at a maternity roost. Analysis of progesterone levels in bats in which the developmental stage of the embryo was known revealed two sharp, transient increases in plasma progesterone during the preimplantation period. The first, with values of 30-45 ng/ml, occurred at ovulation. The second, with values of 20-30 ng/ml, coincided with blastocyst formation. Progesterone levels increased exponentially from a mean of 7.4 +/- 1.0 ng/ml during early implantation to peak values of 100-200 ng/ml (means = 136.2 +/- 15.6) in the last two weeks of pregnancy, and showed no evidence of either a midpregnancy or prepartum decline. Despite involution of the corpus luteum at the end of pregnancy, progesterone levels averaged 9.0 +/- 1.0 ng/ml during lactation and did not decline until the end of lactation. In bats undergoing abortion, mean levels of plasma progesterone were already less than 6 ng/ml, equivalent to levels in nonbreeding females. The results indicate that the progesterone profile of pregnant M. lucifugus, though generally resembling those of other bats, exhibits several distinctive features. The sharp rise in plasma progesterone coinciding with blastocyst formation has not been reported in other mammals and suggests a possible role of progesterone in the cavitation process. In addition, peak values of plasma progesterone in late pregnancy were conspicuously higher than levels reported in other verpertilionid bats. The levels did not appear to fall before parturition, although such falls have been reported in other bats.
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