The aim of this study was to evaluate endocrinological and immunological effects of early postnatal immunisation against gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) in heifer calves, as similar treatment in sheep provokes long-term immunocastration. Heifer calves were injected with either a construct of GnRH – bovine herpes virus 1 glycoprotein D (BHV1 gD; n = 9) or saline (n = 9) at 2, 6 and 13.5 weeks of age. Antibody (GnRH and carrier) and endocrine responses to immunisation were measured twice monthly (FSH and progesterone) or during intensive sampling regimes (LH). Early postnatal immunisation against GnRH induced a high, but variable, antibody response against both GnRH and carrier. Based on antibody responses, animals were divided into high-titre (HT, n = 5) and low-titre (LT, n = 4). Occurring mainly in HT, a further peak in anti-GnRH antibodies, stimulated independently of the carrier, was observed at 23 weeks of age, with antibody titres ⩾10% binding for ∼9 weeks post-peak. Conversely immunisation had only temporary, reversible effects on reproductive function, not affecting age at puberty. We hypothesise that the newly generated antibody measured 10 weeks after the final immunisation resulted from antigenic stimulation and immunological memory cell activation to an endogenous GnRH release. This outcome offers an opportunity for further manipulation of reproductive function based on modulation of GnRH secretion and activity where long-term immunological memory may contribute to durable endocrine effects.
- GnRH immunisation
- Neonatal immunisation