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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1998 Aug;23(6):571-81.

Prolonged stress-induced elevation in plasma corticosterone during pregnancy in the rat: implications for prenatal stress studies.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706, USA.


Experiments were conducted to test the hypothesis that exposure to uncontrollable stress during pregnancy results in a heightened elevation of plasma glucocorticoids. Rats were exposed to uncontrollable electric tail shocks every other day during the 3 weeks of pregnancy. Plasma corticosterone concentrations in stressed dams increased significantly from gestation days 4 to 20. Importantly, this increase in plasma corticosterone occurred 24- and 48-h after exposure to stress suggesting a prolonged elevation in stress-induced glucocorticoid secretion. In addition, the stress-induced rise in plasma corticosterone was accompanied by a significant decrease in maternal levels of corticosteroid binding globulin which suggests increased circulating levels of free corticosterone. Significant stress-induced elevations in plasma corticosterone also occurred in fetuses that were examined on gestation day 20. Furthermore, a significant positive correlation was found between maternal and fetal plasma corticosterone. Results demonstrate that repeated exposure to uncontrollable stress increases plasma concentrations of glucocorticoids throughout pregnancy. In the unbound state, corticosterone may be highly effective in producing alterations in brain development of offspring. These data have important implications for understanding the process underlying the effects of prenatal stress.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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