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Relationship between stages of the estrous cycle and bone cell activity in Thoroughbreds

Brendan F. Jackson PhD1, Philip K. Dyson BVMS2, Rachael D. Hattersley BvetMed3, Hannah R. Kelly BvetMed4, Dirk U. Pfeiffer DrMedVet, PhD5, and Joanna S. Price BVSc, PhD6
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  • 1 Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, The Royal Veterinary College, London, NW1 OTU, England.
  • | 2 Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, The Royal Veterinary College, London, NW1 OTU, England.
  • | 3 Department of Veterinary Basic Sciences, The Royal Veterinary College, London, NW1 OTU, England.
  • | 4 Department of Veterinary Basic Sciences, The Royal Veterinary College, London, NW1 OTU, England.
  • | 5 Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, The Royal Veterinary College, London, NW1 OTU, England.
  • | 6 Department of Veterinary Basic Sciences, The Royal Veterinary College, London, NW1 OTU, England.

Abstract

Objective—To investigate the relationship between stage of estrous cycle and bone cell activity in Thoroughbreds.

Sample Population—Blood samples collected from forty-seven 2-year-old Thoroughbred mares in training for racing.

Procedures—Blood samples were collected monthly (in April through September) from the mares. Stage of estrus was determined by assessing serum progesterone concentration. Bone cell activity was determined by measuring concentrations of 2 markers of bone formation (osteocalcin and the carboxy-terminal propeptide of type I collagen [PICP]) and a marker of bone resorption (the cross-linked carboxy-terminal telopeptide of type I collagen [ICTP]) in sera.

Results—When the relationship between stage of the estrous cycle and markers of bone cell activity was examined, serum concentrations of both osteocalcin and ICTP were significantly higher in mares that were in the luteal phase, compared with mares that were at other stages of the estrous cycle. Stage of estrus did not affect serum PICP concentration.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicate that bone cell activity in Thoroughbred mares fluctuates during the estrous cycle; serum concentrations of markers of bone formation and bone resorption are increased during the luteal phase. Further studies are required to determine whether these changes are of clinical importance and increase the risk of injury for mares in training during the breeding season. As in humans, stage of estrus must be considered as a source of uncontrollable variability in serum bone marker concentrations in horses.

Abstract

Objective—To investigate the relationship between stage of estrous cycle and bone cell activity in Thoroughbreds.

Sample Population—Blood samples collected from forty-seven 2-year-old Thoroughbred mares in training for racing.

Procedures—Blood samples were collected monthly (in April through September) from the mares. Stage of estrus was determined by assessing serum progesterone concentration. Bone cell activity was determined by measuring concentrations of 2 markers of bone formation (osteocalcin and the carboxy-terminal propeptide of type I collagen [PICP]) and a marker of bone resorption (the cross-linked carboxy-terminal telopeptide of type I collagen [ICTP]) in sera.

Results—When the relationship between stage of the estrous cycle and markers of bone cell activity was examined, serum concentrations of both osteocalcin and ICTP were significantly higher in mares that were in the luteal phase, compared with mares that were at other stages of the estrous cycle. Stage of estrus did not affect serum PICP concentration.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicate that bone cell activity in Thoroughbred mares fluctuates during the estrous cycle; serum concentrations of markers of bone formation and bone resorption are increased during the luteal phase. Further studies are required to determine whether these changes are of clinical importance and increase the risk of injury for mares in training during the breeding season. As in humans, stage of estrus must be considered as a source of uncontrollable variability in serum bone marker concentrations in horses.

Contributor Notes

Supported by the Horserace Betting Levy Board.

Address correspondence to Dr. Price.