The effect of chronic psychological stress on corticosterone, plasma metabolites, and immune responsiveness in European starlings
ABSTRACT Although increases in glucocorticoid concentrations during acute stress are believed to help animals survive stressful events, chronic changes in glucocorticoid concentrations can alter metabolism and lead to disease. We studied the effect of chronic psychological stress on corticosterone (CORT), corticosterone binding globulin (CBG), glucose, and triglyceride concentrations as well as immune responsiveness to a T-cell mitogen challenge in European starlings, Sturnus vulgaris. To induce chronic stress we used a chronic stress protocol consisting of five stressors (loud radio, cage tapping, cage rolling, human voice, and bag restraint) administered in random order for 30 min for 4 times/day over 18 days. Total CORT decreased throughout the chronic stress period, which parallels a previous study with starlings. CBG capacity did not significantly change with chronic stress, thus free CORT followed the same pattern of attenuation as total CORT during chronic stress. Despite the change in regulation of CORT release, daytime glucose and triglyceride concentrations did not change with chronic stress. In addition, immune responsiveness in chronically stressed and unstressed birds was similar. Our results, together with a previous study using a similar CSP in European starlings, suggest that starlings physiologically dampen the HPA axis during chronic psychological stress to avoid pathology associated with chronically augmented CORT concentrations such as hyperglycemia and impaired immune function.
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ABSTRACT: Recent emergence and spread of the amphibian fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has been attributed to a number of factors, including environmental stressors that increase host susceptibility to Bd. Physiological stress can increase circulating levels of the hormone, corticosterone, which can alter a host's physiology and affect its susceptibility to pathogens. We experimentally elevated whole-body levels of corticosterone in both larval and post-metamorphic amphibians, and subsequently tested their susceptibility to Bd. Larvae of three species were tested (Anaxyrus boreas, Rana cascadae, and Lithobates catesbeianus) and one species was tested after metamorphosis (R. cascadae). After exposure to Bd, we measured whole-body corticosterone, infection, mortality, growth, and development. We found that exposure to exogenous corticosterone had no effect on Bd infection in any species or at either life stage. Species varied in whole-body corticosterone levels and exposure to corticosterone reduced mass in A. boreas and R. cascadae larvae. Exposure to Bd did not affect mortality, but had a number of sublethal effects. Across species, larvae exposed to Bd had higher corticosterone levels than unexposed larvae, but the opposite pattern was found in post-metamorphic R. cascadae. Bd exposure also increased larval length in all species and increased mass in R. cascadae larvae. Our results indicate that caution is warranted in assuming a strong link between elevated levels of corticosterone and disease susceptibility in amphibians. The role of physiological stress in altering Bd prevalence in amphibian populations is likely much more complicated than can be explained by examining a single “stress” endpoint. J. Exp. Zool. 9999A: 1–11, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A Ecological Genetics and Physiology 06/2014; 321(5). DOI:10.1002/jez.1855 · 1.61 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Individuals of the same age can differ substantially in the degree to which they have accumulated tissue damage, akin to bodily wear and tear, from past experiences. This accumulated tissue damage reflects the individual's biological age and may better predict physiological and behavioural performance than the individual's chronological age. However, at present it remains unclear how to reliably assess biological age in individual wild vertebrates. We exposed hand-raised adult Eurasian blackbirds (Turdus merula) to a combination of repeated immune and disturbance stressors for over one year to determine the effects of chronic stress on potential biomarkers of biological ageing including telomere shortening, oxidative stress load, and glucocorticoid hormones. We also assessed general measures of individual condition including body mass and locomotor activity. By the end of the experiment, stress-exposed birds showed greater decreases in telomere lengths. Stress-exposed birds also maintained higher circulating levels of oxidative damage compared with control birds. Other potential biomarkers such as concentrations of antioxidants and glucocorticoid hormone traits showed greater resilience and did not differ significantly between treatment groups. The current data demonstrate that repeated exposure to experimental stressors affects the rate of biological ageing in adult Eurasian blackbirds. Both telomeres and oxidative damage were affected by repeated stress exposure and thus can serve as blood-derived biomarkers of biological ageing.Frontiers in Zoology 01/2015; DOI:10.1186/s12983-015-0095-z · 2.30 Impact Factor