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Physiol Behav. 2009 Mar 23;96(4-5):540-7. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.12.005. Epub 2008 Dec 24.

Signals that link energy to reproduction: gastric fill, bulk intake, or caloric intake?

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Department of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University, 111 Research Drive, Bethlehem, PA 18015, USA.


Reproductive processes are inhibited by deficits in the availability of metabolic fuels, and this inhibition increases the chances of survival during energetic challenges and optimizes reproductive success by delaying energetically costly processes until fuels become available. The mechanisms that link energy availability to reproduction are unknown, and thus, in this study we tested the hypothesis that estrous cycles are most sensitive to sensory signals from bulk intake and gastric fill as opposed to signals from caloric intake or the availability of intracellular oxidizable fuels. The caloric content of a standard laboratory chow diet was diluted by 25, 50, or 75% with the largely indigestible fiber, cellulose, and fed to food-deprived, female hamsters throughout day 2 of the estrous cycle (ovulation and estrous behavior normally occur on day 4). The bulk intake/gastric fill hypothesis was not supported because bulk intake increased the more the diet was diluted, whereas the frequency of hamsters showing normal 4-day estrous cycles decreased with diet dilution, along with decreases in caloric intake and in plasma insulin concentrations. Rate of gastric emptying did not change significantly with diet dilution. Although consumption of a diluted diet significantly lengthened the estrous cycle, it did not affect incidence of pregnancy, litter size or pup weight. Thus, when hamsters ingest sufficient energy to support estrous behavior, they fully recover reproductive potential. In summary, neither bulk intake nor gastric fill provides critical signals necessary for reproduction, consistent with the idea that reproduction is primarily responsive fuel availability.

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