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Comp Med. 2010 Dec;60(6):455-60.

Fecal dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) immunoreactivity as a noninvasive index of circulating DHEA activity in young male laboratory rats.

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Department of Psychology, Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia, USA.


Evidence suggests that dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) plays a key role in stress and coping responses. Fecal sampling permits assessment of hormone-behavior interactions reliably and effectively, but no previous study has compared circadian- or stress-dependent alterations between serum DHEA and its fecal metabolites. In the current study, young (28 d of age) male rats were assigned to either an experimental (n = 6) or control (n = 6) group. Rats in the experimental group were exposed to a forced swim test to assess their behavioral and physiologic response to an environmental stressor; blood samples were drawn before the test (baseline), immediately after the test, and at 2 later time points. Only fecal samples were collected from control animals. Fecal DHEA and corticosterone metabolites were monitored in all animals for 24 h. DHEA metabolites in control rats exhibited significant diurnal variation, showing a similar temporal pattern as that of corticosterone metabolites. In addition, fecal and serum DHEA levels were highly correlated. Significant peaks in both DHEA and corticosterone metabolite levels were detected. These data suggest that measures of fecal DHEA can provide a complementary, noninvasive method of assessing adrenal gland function in rats.

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