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Horm Metab Res. 2009 Aug;41(8):617-20. doi: 10.1055/s-0029-1216360. Epub 2009 Apr 21.

Influence of perinatal stress on the hormone content in immune cells of adult rats: dominance of ACTH.

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Department of Genetics, Cell and Immunobiology, Semmelweis University, 1445 Budapest, Hungary.


Rat dams were stressed by total deprivation of food and water for 48 h just before or directly after delivery and the offspring were studied when adult. The immune cells' hormone content (ACTH, histamine, serotonin, and T(3)) was measured by immunocytochemical flow cytometry. The elevation of ACTH content in males was convincing in each cell type (lymphocytes, monocytes and granulocytes, and mast cells). The change in histamine and T(3) content was inconsistent, while serotonin level did not change at all. As ACTH is the key hormone in the General Adaptation Syndrome, it seems likely that the perinatal stress primarily caused elevation in ACTH level and it was provoking the life-long hormonal imprinting. There was a difference between the reaction of males and females (with males' advance), which points to the gender dependence of the phenomenon. It is important that the effect of stress on the offspring was similar in case of direct (prenatal, in the mother) and indirect (postnatal, transmitted by milk) stress treatment, which calls attention to the danger of stress during this latter period.

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