Reproductive Biology

Reproductive Biology Research Theme

Male and female fertility: genetic, hormonal, nutritional and environmental studies 


Cat testis


Key aims and expertise

Members of the reproductive biology theme study how nutrition and the environment interact to influence fertility in males and females. The group, consisting of six academics in SVMS, use a wide range of techniques (e.g. in vitro and in vivo approaches) in a wide range of species (e.g. sheep, cows, rodents, companion animals in their home setting) to meet the aims and objectives of their research. The basic science and clinical studies (medicine and veterinary) currently in progress include:

  • Developmental programming (nutritional/hormonal) of the reproductive axis
  • A role for Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals impacting upon physiology and anatomy of spermatozoa
  • How ovarian function may underpin declining fertility in the dairy cow
  • What environmental factors may account for declining fertility in the dog
  • Infectious pregnancy failure in domestic animals
  • Prenatal malnutrition and lifetime productivity in the heifer
  • The effect of pre-weaning protein supplementation upon bull fertility and semen composition

Current projects

  1. A poor maternal diet has long-lasting effects on the health and well-being of her adult offspring, including ovarian function.
  2. The role of nutrition during pregnancy upon heifer lifetime productivity and its impact on sustainability in the beef industry.
  3. Characterising normal reproductive function in the dog and bitch. Current work focusses on sperm-uterine interaction, ovarian function and physiology of the female pregnant and non-pregnant tract.
  4. Mechanisms of luteal deficiency in the dairy cow. Current work utilises an in vitro model for angiogenesis in the corpus luteum. Mechanisms underlying the rapid growth of the bovine corpus luteum are under investigation.
  5. Genetics of infertility and ovarian pathology. Current work focusses on associations between genetic variation (single nucleotide polymorphisms) in reproductively important genes and infertility, in both human and animal populations. OUTCOME: FSH receptor variants are a rare cause of premature ovarian failure in women.
  6. The impact of disease on ovarian and uterine function in dairy cows. Current work has focussed on Schmallenberg virus, liver fluke and effects of lipopolysaccharide (LPS).
  7. Effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on male and female fertility. Current work is focussed on declining fertility in the stud dog and its link to environmental chemicals. Mechanistic studies are being carried out in sheep exposed to environmental levels of EDCs or cows naturally exposed to EDCs.

Significant results

  • REF2013 impact case submitted – “Influencing national and international health policies regarding a role for early life nutrition on the risk of non-communicable disease in adulthood”.
  • Three all-day workshops for farmers and consultants are being run by Dr Perry on beef heifer nutrition and selection in 2015. The work has featured on Australian websites for beef farmers.
  • The dog exhibits evidence of testicular dysgenesis syndrome. Canine sperm attach to uterine epithelium and are released in large numbers in response to factors in uterine and follicular fluid.
  • Luteal angiogenesis can be mimicked in vitro and roles for angiogenic factors have been defined.
  • FSH receptor variants are a rare cause of premature ovarian failure in women.
  • Luteal-derived endothelial cells are particularly sensitive to LPS.
  • Pregnant ewes exposed to a cocktail of chemicals found in sewage sludge fertiliser perturb the development of the male and female gonad. EDCs are present in cow ovaries and may influence angiogenic processes associated with the ovarian cycle.

Research team


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Reproductive Biology Research Theme

The University of Nottingham
School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
Sutton Bonington Campus, Leicestershire, LE12 5RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 6116
email: Email our Research Theme Leader