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Peripartum sex steroid changes and maternal style in rhesus and Japanese macaques.

Bardi M, et al. Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2003.

Abstract

The subtle and complex relationships between the sequential maturation of the endocrine systems during pregnancy and parturition, and the hormonal role in activating the central nervous system to express maternal behavior in primates, are far from being completely understood. Recent studies on the association between sex steroids and maternal behavior have yielded conflicting results in this group. Here we use a comparative approach to assess the correlation between changes in the peripartum endocrine profiles and maternal styles in two closely related macaque species, housed in analogous environments. We included in this study the first seven Japanese macaque and seven rhesus macaque mother-infant pairs born during the birth season of 2001 at the Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, Japan. We observed each pair 3h/week (six weekly 30-min observation sessions) during the first 12 weeks of lactation. We collected fecal samples twice a week from each mother, starting 4 weeks before parturition and ending 4 weeks after parturition. We tested the hypothesis that neuroendocrine changes during pregnancy and lactation might specifically contribute to the regulation and timing of infant rejection. Despite their biological similarities, we observed a clear difference in maternal style between the two groups concerning rejection rates: rhesus macaque mothers rejected their infants earlier and more frequently throughout the whole 12 weeks of study. On the other hand, protectiveness showed similar patterns and values in the two groups, and maternal warmth was significantly higher in the rhesus group, but it followed a similar pattern over time. We also confirmed an association between maternal rejection and excreted estrogen, but not excreted progesterone, for Japanese macaques. This association was not apparent for the rhesus macaques. This result, coupled with the observation that rhesus mothers are more rejecting than Japanese macaque mothers, tends to support our hypothesis. As a group, rhesus macaques are less inhibited in the rejection of their infants, and this is paralleled by a less marked change in the primacy of estrogen in the last phase of pregnancy. On the contrary, the Japanese group is characterized by higher levels of E(1)C and the E(1)C/PdG ratio. Therefore, according to our hypothesis, their tendency to increase the rejection rate may be suppressed through a feedback loop that enhances maternal motivation and results in a more tolerant outcome toward the infant.

PMID

12957476 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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