High and stable fertilization rates with a concomitant reduction in pre- and postnatal losses, as well as an increase in the vitality of the offspring are economically essential and support the strong ethical demands for a sustainable and species-appropriate agricultural system.
Regulatory mechanisms controlling the reproductive cycle
The female reproductive cycle is regulated by a complex network of hormonally active cells and tissues. Moreover its correct functioning depends strongly on the metabolic status of the animal (feeding, lactation, etc.) as well as on environmental conditions (management, stress, endocrine disrupting chemicals, etc.).
Under this research theme factors and control mechanisms within the reproductive cycle are being investigated in the context of genetic variation and differing environmental conditions. This will allow a better understanding of the fundamental processes controlling fertility and help avoid those factors promoting fertility disruption. The knowledge gained will also help to improve the various procedures of reproductive biotechnology (e.g. IVM, AI, cycle synchronization).
Germ cell maturation and early embryogenesis
As a prerequisite for the production of healthy offspring, both the germ cells as well as the early embryo must undergo a series of tightly controlled differentiation steps in a precisely coordinated sequence.
The aim of this research theme is to elucidate the complex regulatory steps involved using biochemical, cell biological and molecular approaches to explore specific proteins and pathways that are essential for the development of competent eggs and sperm as well as the formation of the early embryo.
Pregnancy and the embryo-maternal dialogue
The metabolic competence of the uterus, as well as its blood and nutrient supply, are essential for the metabolic exchange between the maternal and fetal organism and the development of healthy offspring. An inadequate interaction between the embryo (conceptus) and the uterus, and insufficient metabolic support by the uterus, are common causes for early embryonic mortality or fetal growth retardation.
The principal aims within this research theme are to understand the precise mechanisms by which embryos implant into the uterus, the local influences of the uterine environment, as well as the effects of endogenous and exogenous factors on the dynamic progression of pregnancy and fetal development.