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Gen Comp Endocrinol. 1994 Apr;94(1):33-43.

Gender and seasonal differences in the adrenocortical response to ACTH challenge in an arctic passerine, Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.


We evaluated the adrenocortical response to acute stress in free-living Gambel's white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii) using a standardized capture stress protocol in which five serial blood samples (70 microliters) were taken for measurement of plasma corticosterone (B) over the course of an hour of captivity (at 1, 5, 10, 30, and 60 min). In field-captured birds, male plasma B levels rose two to four times higher than those of females under capture stress during the breeding season, but were no different during winter (nonbreeding). We investigated the basis of this pattern by conducting dexamethasone (DEX) suppression tests on breeding and nonbreeding sparrows of both genders. This test involves pretreatment with subcutaneous DEX implants (a potent synthetic glucocorticoid) and challenge with intrajugular injections of either corticotropin (ACTH) or saline, followed by collection of a series of blood samples for evaluation of plasma B levels over a 2-hr period. ACTH injections in DEX-treated birds resulted in elevated B in both genders, with nonbreeding B profiles consistently lower than those of breeding birds. All DEX-treated, saline-injected birds, except breeding males, maintained low B levels for the entire 2-hr post-challenge period. This result indicates effective negative feedback by DEX on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, thus inhibiting endogenous B secretion. The apparent reduction in glucocorticoid feedback inhibition in breeding males may be related to an uncoupling of adrenal effects on reproductive behavior.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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