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Vertebrate reproductive science and technology

Distribution of aromatase activity in brain and peripheral tissues of male sheep: effect of nutrition

T. P. Sharma A C , D. Blache A , C. E. Roselli B and G. B. Martin A D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Animal Biology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

B Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, OR 97239, USA.

C Present address: Watford Veterinary Clinic, Watford, ON NOM2SO, Canada.

D To whom correspondence should be addressed. email:

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 16(7) 709-715
Submitted: 11 March 2004  Accepted: 8 October 2004   Published: 9 December 2004


Conversion of testosterone to oestradiol plays a major role in the feedback inhibition of gonadotrophin secretion in male sheep but little is known of the distribution or control of aromatase activity among central and peripheral tissues. Changes in activity at those sites may mediate alterations in the effectiveness of negative feedback following, for example, a change in nutrition. Using a tritiated-water assay, we quantified aromatase in several tissues in mature male sheep, assessed their contribution to oestradiol production, and tested whether activity at each site was affected by a nutritional treatment that stimulates gonadotrophin secretion. Among the brain tissues, the preoptic area had the highest concentration of activity, followed by the hypothalamus, amygdala and cortex. Among the peripheral tissues, liver and testis had the highest activity and, due to their mass, they are the major sources of circulating oestradiol. Pituitary, muscle, kidney and adipose tissues had very low aromatase levels. The nutritional stimulus increased activity in testis but not in liver or brain. We conclude that changes in aromatase activity do not mediate the effects of nutrition on steroid feedback, but aromatisation in testis, liver and brain is important in the endocrine regulation of reproduction in the mature ram.


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