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J Comp Physiol B. 2008 Sep;178(7):829-35. doi: 10.1007/s00360-008-0270-z. Epub 2008 Apr 29.

Effects of corticosteroids on oxidative damage and circulating carotenoids in captive adult kestrels (Falco tinnunculus).

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Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e dell'Uomo, Università La Sapienza, Viale dell'Università 32, 00185 Rome, Italy.


Birds control body homeostasis through the secretion of corticosterone. This hormone is the end-product of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis response to stressors. High levels of corticosterone may be associated with low individual fitness and may affect balance between pro-oxidants and antioxidants. Given these points, chronic stress modulated by hormones could undermine individual fitness by increasing oxidative tissue damage. In this study, we administered corticosteroids by diet (20 mg/kg of diet) to captive adult kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) over a 14-day period to evaluate the effects of a simulated chronic stress modulated by corticosteroids. We found that dietary administration of corticosterone caused a 32% increase of reactive oxygen metabolites, but did not impair total serum antioxidant capacity, serum carotenoids or body mass. Oxidative stress had a 64% increase in treated birds compared to 30% in controls. The two groups did not differ in the total serum antioxidant capacity, which showed a significant decrease over the study period. In contrast, circulating carotenoids and body mass increased in both groups. These results suggest that stress hormones, such as corticosterone, may also act as modulators of oxidative stress in birds.

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