An international team of scientists led by University of Saskatchewan veterinary biomedical sciences professor Gregg Adams made the discovery and published their findings Aug. 20 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“This latest finding broadens our understanding of the mechanisms that regulate ovulation and raises some intriguing questions about fertility,” Adams said in a press release.
The protein causes the release of other hormones through the pituitary gland, which directs organs and hormone releasing glands, and the hypothalamus, the gland responsible for maintaining water and electrolyte balance, pH balance, blood pressure, respiration and temperature control. The hormones released prompt the ovaries to release an egg or eggs, depending on the species. It has accordingly been characterized as an ovulation-inducing factor (OIF).
“The idea that a substance in mammalian semen has a direct effect on the female brain is a new one,” Adams said.
After being compared to thousands of proteins and through research done at the Canadian Light Source, OIF has also been found to have the same molecular structure as nerve growth factor (NGF) that is found in the body’s nerve cells.
“To our surprise, it turns out they are the same molecule,” Adams said. “Even more surprising is that the effects of NGF in the female were not recognized earlier, since it’s so abundant in seminal plasma.”
The group studied a wide range of animals, ranging from koalas and mice to cattle and humans, and has found OIF/NGF in every mammal examined thus far and that OIF/NGF creates the same effects in each species. However, the roles of the protein in different species — specifically the clinical relevance to human infertility — are still unknown.
In order to access the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences database, log into your Usask Library account and search the journal under E-Journals. Highwire Press National Academy of Sciences will direct you to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences where you can search the article; The nerve of ovulation-inducing factor in semen.