U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Animal Reproduction Science 192 (2018) 69–77


© 2018 Elsevier B.V.

This document is a U.S. government work and is not subject to copyright in the United States.



Currently there is no contraceptive vaccine that can cause permanent sterility in mares. This study investigates the effect of vaccination against oocyte-specific growth factors, Bone Morphogenetic Protein 15 (BMP-15) and Growth Differentiation Factor 9 (GDF-9), on ovarian function of mares. It was hypothesized that immunization against these growth factors would prevent ovulation and/or accelerate depletion of the oocyte reserve. For this study, 30 mares were randomly assigned to three groups (n=10/group) and vaccinated with BMP-15 or GDF-9 peptides conjugated to KLH and adjuvant, or a control of phosphate buffered saline and adjuvant. Horses received vaccinations at weeks 0, 6, 12, and 18. Ovarian activity and estrous behavior were evaluated 3 days a week via ultrasonography and interaction with a stallion. The study was initiated on March1, 2016. Upon evaluation of ovulation rate, the GDF-9 group did not have a difference (P=0.66) in ovulation rate when compared to controls (10.8 and 10.0 ovulations, respectively), but the number of ovulations in the BMP-15 group was less (P=0.02; 4.9 ovulations). Average follicle size prior to ovulation was less (P < 0.0001) in both treatment groups compared to controls. Estrous behavior was altered in both the BMP-15 and GDF-9 groups compared to controls after the second vaccination (P=0.05 and 0.03, respectively). Although further research is required to determine the continued effects of vaccination against GDF-9 on ovulation rates, these results indicate that vaccination against BMP-15 and GDF-9 could serve as a contraceptive in wild horse populations.

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