Postnatal stress in birds: a novel model of glucocorticoid programming of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis

Spencer, K.A., Evans, N.P. and Monaghan, P. (2009) Postnatal stress in birds: a novel model of glucocorticoid programming of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Endocrinology, 150(4), pp. 1931-1934. (doi: 10.1210/en.2008-1471) (PMID:19095740)

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There is growing international interest in how environmental conditions experienced during development can shape adult phenotypes and the extent to which such induced changes are adaptive. One physiological system that links an individual to changes in environmental circumstances during development is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Mammalian studies have linked early postnatal stress to later changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis; however, the physiological link [lactational corticosterone (CORT) transfer] between mother and offspring during postnatal development constrains the ability to determine the direct effects of such stressors on subsequent physiology and behavior. Here we present a novel model using an avian species, the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), in which maternal hormonal transfer during postnatal development is likely to be absent. Postnatal exposure of chicks to the stress hormone CORT was manipulated for a 16-d period up until nutritional independence (28 d), and the long-term effects on the physiological response to stress determined. CORT doses were scaled to mimic the physiological response of juvenile birds to a capture-handling-restraint protocol. CORT-fed birds showed exaggerated and prolonged responses to acute stress at 60d of age. Our results clearly demonstrate that postnatal stress has significant long-term effects on the physiological stress response in birds and provides a potential mechanism underlying long-term behavioural responses to developmental conditions. This study represents the first direct evidence for postnatal glucocorticoid programming of the stress response using this novel model for postnatal stress. This model therefore provides an important tool with which to investigate the role of glucocorticoids in shaping adult phenotypes. (Endocrinology 150: 1931-1934, 2009)

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Monaghan, Professor Pat and Evans, Professor Neil and Spencer, Dr Karen
Authors: Spencer, K.A., Evans, N.P., and Monaghan, P.
Subjects:Q Science > QL Zoology
Q Science > QP Physiology
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Endocrinology
Publisher:Endocrine Society
ISSN (Online):1945-7170
Published Online:18 December 2008

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
414501Long-term effects of elevated stress hormone levels in early developmentPatricia MonaghanBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)BB/D010896/1Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine