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Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2009 Apr;161(2):246-51. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2009.01.018. Epub 2009 Jan 31.

Rapid decline in the concentrations of three yolk steroids during development: is it embryonic regulation?

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School of Biological Sciences, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4120, USA.


Maternally derived yolk steroids have been found to elicit both short-term and long-term effects on offspring phenotype. Paradoxically, their effects can be strikingly specific given the often substantial concentrations present at oviposition, and they do not appear to uniformly affect all steroid-sensitive processes. To better understand the dynamics of yolk steroids across embryonic development, we quantified levels of progesterone, testosterone, and estradiol at 5-day intervals throughout development in eggs of the red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta) incubated at both male- and female-producing temperatures. We also assessed the effect of season on yolk steroid levels. For all steroids assayed, the concentrations in yolk declined significantly by day 15 of embryonic development despite large differences in initial concentrations among steroids. We found that estradiol was the only steroid whose initial concentration varied significantly with season, while only the decline in testosterone was affected by incubation temperature. These findings illustrate the complex nature of yolk steroid dynamics and suggest that maternal steroids may be rapidly degraded or subject to embryonic processing, emphasizing the need for studies aimed at understanding the mechanisms through which yolk steroids may elicit their effects.

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