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ABSTRACT: Body condition and reproductive maturation are parameters of reproductive success that are influenced by sexual hormones rising in the circulation during the time of puberty. Various endocrine systems can be programmed by conditions experienced during early life. Stress for instance is supposed to be capable of influencing fetal development, leading to adjustments of offspring's later physiology. We examined whether prenatal stress (induced by exposure to strobe light) during early- to mid-gestation was capable of affecting later reproductive parameters in guinea pigs (Cavia aperea f. porcellus). Therefore, we measured the levels of testosterone and progesterone from the age of day 12-124 in prenatally stressed (PS, n = 20) and unaffected control animals (n = 24). Furthermore, we determined the timing of puberty and growth. Body weight development revealed significantly faster growth in PS females compared to control animals. The onset of first estrus was slightly earlier in PS females, however not significantly so. Cycle lengths and levels of progesterone differed between groups over the course of time with higher progesterone levels and more constant cycles among PS females compared to control females who displayed marked differences between first and subsequent cycles. Levels of testosterone did not differ between groups. We conclude that prenatal stress accelerates growth and maturity in females, but not in males.
Journal of Comparative Physiology B 06/2012; · 2.02 Impact Factor