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Reprod Toxicol. 1997 Nov-Dec;11(6):799-805.

Effects of corticosterone on reproduction in male Sprague-Dawley rats.

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  • 1Rhône-Poulenc Rorer Research and Development, Collegeville, Pennsylvania.


Corticosterone, the predominant circulating adrenal corticosteroid in rodents, was investigated for its effects on reproduction in male Sprague-Dawley rats. Male rats (in groups of 50, 25, and 50) were administered corticosterone at doses of 0, 10, and 25 mg/kg/d, respectively, by subcutaneous injection once daily for 6 weeks; the highest dose was decreased to 20 mg/kg/d after 15 d. During the last 2 weeks of the 6-week treatment period, 25 males per group were paired with untreated females. The remaining 25 males from the 0 and 25/20 mg/kg/d groups were allowed a 6-week recovery period and, during the last 2 weeks of this period, these males were also paired with untreated females. At the end of the treatment period, the males had markedly elevated plasma corticosterone concentrations and decreased weight gain. They also produced fewer copulatory plugs than controls, which may have been secondary to observed adverse effects on the accessory sex organs (decreased weights and microscopic changes in prostate and seminal vesicles). However, no adverse effects on sperm motility, sperm count, or microscopic features of the testes were observed. Serum testosterone concentration of the high-dose males was elevated, but luteinizing hormone was unaffected. The numbers of embryonic implantation sites and live fetuses in females mated to these males were reduced. All of these effects except decreased prostate weights were reversible upon cessation of corticosterone administration. Thus, exogenous administration of corticosterone to male rats produced reversible effects on implant count and litter size of female rats mated to these males. These effects on male rat reproduction may have been secondary to reduced accessory sex organ function, which resulted in diminished secretions and fewer copulatory plugs.

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