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J Physiol Biochem. 2002 Sep;58(3):143-9.

Effect of prenatal stress on the hormonal response to acute and chronic stress and on immune parameters in the offspring.

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Departament of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of La Laguna, 38320 Tenerife, Spain.


The effect of prenatal stress on the time course of the corticosterone response to acute and chronic stress and on hematological and immunological parameters in the offspring were analized in the present study. Pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were stressed daily for 2 hours during the last week of gestation, and female and male off-spring were studied during adulthood. Corticosterone response to acute immobilization stress was not significantly different in either control or prenatally stressed rats. However, after 10 days of immobilization stress the corticosterone response completely disappeared in the control animals but not in the prenatally stressed group: high levels of corticosterone were found during the first hour of stress, although they were lower than those found in acutely stressed rats. Adrenal hypertrophy in response to prenatal stress was observed in females but not in male offspring, and chronic stress only increased adrenal weights in the male control group. Prenatal stress decreased the total peripheral leukocyte count, altered its diferential count decreasing lymphocytes and increasing neutrophil and eosinhophil counts, and significantly reduced the percentage of peripheral lymphocyte T CD8+ subset in male offspring. Chronic stress also reduced the percentage of the peripheral T CD8+ lymphocyte subset in the control group but not in the prenatally stressed group. These results suggest that the exposure to stress during pregnancy alters the adaptative response of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenocortical axis to chronic stress and presumably the immune competence in the offspring.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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