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J Neurobiol. 1999 Sep 5;40(3):302-15.

Prenatal stress alters circadian activity of hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis and hippocampal corticosteroid receptors in adult rats of both gender.

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Psychobiologie des Comportements Adaptatifs, INSERM U 259, Université Victor Segalen Bordeaux 2, Domaine de Carreire, Rue Camille St. Saëns, 33077 Bordeaux, France.


Prenatal stress impairs activity of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in response to stress in adult offspring. So far, very few data are available on the effects of prenatal stress on circadian functioning of the HPA axis. Here, we studied the effects of prenatal stress on the circadian rhythm of corticosterone secretion in male and female adult rats. To evaluate the effects of prenatal stress on various regulatory components of corticosterone secretion, we also assessed the diurnal fluctuation of adrenocorticotropin, total and free corticosterone levels, and hippocampal corticosteroid receptors. Finally, in the search of possible maternal factors, we studied the effects of repeated restraint stress on the pattern of corticosterone secretion in pregnant female rats. Results demonstrate that prenatal stress induced higher levels of total and free corticosterone secretion at the end of the light period in both males and females, and hypercorticism over the entire diurnal cycle in females. No diurnal fluctuation of adrenocorticotropin was observed in any group studied. The effects of prenatal stress on corticosterone secretion could be mediated, at least in part, by a reduction in corticosteroid receptors at specific times of day. Results also show that prepartal stress alters the pattern of corticosterone secretion in pregnant females. Those data indicate that prenatally stressed rats exhibit an altered temporal functioning of the HPA axis, which, taken together with their abnormal response to stress, reinforces the idea of a general homeostatic dysfunction in those animals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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