Central genomic regulation of the expression of oestrous behaviour in dairy cows: a review

H. Woelders, T. van der Lende, A. Kommadath, M.F.W. te Pas, M.A. Smits, L.M.T.E. Kaal-Lansbergen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The expression of oestrous behaviour in Holstein Friesian dairy cows has progressively decreased over the past 50 years. Reduced oestrus expression is one of the factors contributing to the current suboptimal reproductive efficiency in dairy farming. Variation between and within cows in the expression of oestrous behaviour is associated with variation in peripheral blood oestradiol concentrations during oestrus. In addition, there is evidence for a priming role of progesterone for the full display of oestrous behaviour. A higher rate of metabolic clearance of ovarian steroids could be one of the factors leading to lower peripheral blood concentrations of oestradiol and progesterone in high-producing dairy cows. Oestradiol acts on the brain by genomic, non-genomic and growth factor-dependent mechanisms. A firm base of understanding of the ovarian steroid-driven central genomic regulation of female sexual behaviour has been obtained from studies on rodents. These studies have resulted in the definition of five modules of oestradiol-activated genes in the brain, referred to as the GAPPS modules. In a recent series of studies, gene expression in the anterior pituitary and four brain areas (amygdala, hippocampus, dorsal hypothalamus and ventral hypothalamus) in oestrous and luteal phase cows, respectively, has been measured, and the relation with oestrous behaviour of these cows was analysed. These studies identified a number of genes of which the expression was associated with the intensity of oestrous behaviour. These genes could be grouped according to the GAPPS modules, suggesting close similarity of the regulation of oestrous behaviour in cows and female sexual behaviour in rodents. A better understanding of the central genomic regulation of the expression of oestrous behaviour in dairy cows may in due time contribute to improved (genomic) selection strategies for appropriate oestrus expression in high-producing dairy cows.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)754-764
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • metabolic-clearance rate
  • female sexual-behavior
  • liver blood-flow
  • high feed-intake
  • estrus detection
  • mediobasal hypothalamus
  • anterior-pituitary
  • preoptic area
  • guinea-pigs
  • progesterone


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