The effect of nutritional growth restriction on reproductive development in red deer stags reared in constant photoperiod was investigated and the correlation between reproductive status and circulating concentrations of growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) examined.
Stags were reared from birth in constant photoperiod (12 h light: 12 h dark). They were offered a ‘complete diet’ ad libitum until they reached 52-5 kg live weight (LW) and were then maintained at this LWby restricting daily food dry-matter intake (DMI)for either a long (LR, 26 to 51 weeks of age, no. = 5) or short (SR, 21 to 33 weeks, no. = 6) period before being returned to ad libitum feeding.
Relative to SR stags, antlers hardened later in LR stags (72·0 v. 57·5 weeks of age, P < 0·001); sustained elevations in plasma testosterone also began later (55·2 v. 38·5 weeks, P < 0·001) but at lower LW (54·0 v. 60·6 kg, P < 0·05). In both groups, the testosterone rise followed the return to ad libitum food by 4 to 5 weeks. Plasma IGF-1 was closely correlated with DMI (LR, r = 0·84, P < 0·001; SR, r = 0-93, P < 0·001) and with plasma testosterone (LR, r = 0·42, P < 0·001; SR, r = 0·38, P < 0·01). Also the increase in plasma IGF-1 preceded that of testosterone (by 2·8 (s.e. 0·94) weeks) and was associated with a transient plasma GH peak (P < 0·05) and elevated LH concentrations (SR, P < 0·01; LR, P < 0·05).
The timing of reproductive development in growth-restricted male red deer in constant photoperiod may therefore be more sensitive to DMI than LW, and changes in plasma IGF-1 concentrations are consistent with a putative permissive role in relaying this information.