Exogenous melatonin advances the ram breeding season and increases testicular function

K R Pool, J P Rickard, T Pini, S P de Graaf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Governed by melatonin, ovine reproductive seasonality limits production outcomes due to periods of decreased reproductive efficiency. Though it is established that slow-release melatonin implants improve out of season reproductive performance in the ewe, the comprehensive effects of exogenous melatonin in the ram remain inconclusive. This study aimed to ultimately clarify the ability of exogenous melatonin to alter ram reproductive function during the non-breeding season and the subsequent breeding season. Hence, we investigated the effect of exogenous melatonin on reproductive endocrinology, semen quality and production, testicular size and libido in Merino and Poll Dorset rams (n = 31, using a subset of 18 rams for analysis of semen production and quality). Melatonin treatment resulted in elevation of melatonin in seminal plasma from 1-8 weeks post-implantation and in blood plasma at 6 weeks post-implantation. The blood plasma testosterone of implanted rams was greater than controls at both 6 weeks post-implantation and during the following breeding season. Implanted rams exhibited increased testicular size and number of sperm per ejaculate from 3-12 weeks post-implantation but did not demonstrate any change in sperm motility or morphology in response to treatment. Compared to their control counterparts, melatonin-treated Poll Dorset rams exhibited a lower percentage of sperm DNA fragmentation during several weeks of the non-breeding season. Though melatonin increased the likelihood of ejaculate collection in Poll Dorset rams (P < 0.05), libido was otherwise unaffected by treatment. Melatonin did not alter seminal plasma concentrations of inhibin A or Anti-Mullerian hormone, however, for the first time in the ram we have shown Anti-Mullerian hormone to be positively correlated with the number of sperm per ejaculate and sperm motility (r = 0.464 and 0.3242 respectively, P < 0.001), and inhibin A to be correlated to the number of sperm per ejaculate (r = 0.1786, P = 0.0135). These results indicate that melatonin is able to both systemically upregulate reproduction and act directly upon testicular function in the ram.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9711
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


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