The Response to Stressors in Adulthood Depends on the Interaction Between Prenatal Exposure to Glucocorticoids and Environmental Context
Maternal stress during reproduction can influence how offspring respond to stress later in life. Greater lifetime exposure to glucocorticoid hormones released during stress is linked to greater risks of behavioral disorders, disease susceptibility, and mortality. The immense variation in individual’s stress responses is explained, in part, by prenatal glucocorticoid exposure. To explore the long-term effects of embryonic glucocorticoid exposure, we injected Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) eggs with corticosterone. We characterized the endocrine stress response in offspring and measured experienced aggression at three different ages. We found that prenatal glucocorticoid exposure affected (1) the speed at which the stress response was terminated suggesting dysregulated negative feedback, (2) baseline corticosterone levels in a manner dependent on current environmental conditions with higher levels of experienced aggression associated with higher levels of baseline corticosterone, (3) the magnitude of an acute stress response based on baseline concentrations. We finish by proposing a framework that can be used to test these findings in future work. Overall, our findings suggest that the potential adaptive nature of prenatal glucocorticoid exposure is likely dependent on environmental context and may also be tempered by the negative effects of longer exposure to glucocorticoids each time an animal faces a stressor.
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Majer, Ariana; Paitz, Ryan T.; Tricola, Gianna; Geduldig, Jack; Litwa, Hannah P.; Farmer, Jenna; Prevelige, Brenna; McMahon, Elyse; McNeely, Taylor; Sisson, Zachary; Frenz, Brian; Ziur, Alexis; Clay, emily; Eames, Brad; McCollum, Shannon; and Haussmann, Mark F.. "The Response to Stressors in Adulthood Depends on the Interaction Between Prenatal Exposure to Glucocorticoids and Environmental Context." (2023) .