Prenatal corticosterone exposure programs sex-specific adrenal adaptations in mouse offspring
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Maternal stress can impair foetal development and program sex-specific disease outcomes in offspring through the actions of maternally produced glucocorticoids, predominantly corticosterone (Cort) in rodents. We have demonstrated in mice that male but not female offspring prenatally exposed to Cort (33 µg/kg/h for 60 h beginning at E12.5) develop cardiovascular/renal dysfunction at 12 months. At 6 months of age, renal function was normal but male offspring had increased plasma aldosterone concentrations, suggesting that altered adrenal function may precede disease. This study investigated the long-term impact of prenatal exposure to Cort on adrenal growth, morphology and steroidogenic capacity as well as plasma Cort concentrations in offspring at postnatal day 30 (PN30), 6 months and 12 months of age. Prenatal Cort exposure decreased adrenal volume, particularly of the zona fasciculata, in male offspring at PN30 but increased both relative and absolute adrenal weight at 6 months of age. By 12 months of age, male Cort-exposed offspring had reduced absolute adrenal weight in association with increased adrenal plaque deposition (lipogenic pigmentation). Plasma Cort concentrations were elevated in male 6-month offspring but not at other ages. mRNA expression of Mc2r (ACTH receptor) was increased in males at PN30, and Cyp11a1 expression was decreased at 6 and 12 months of age. There were no changes in the adrenals of female Cort-exposed offspring. This study demonstrates that prenatal Cort exposure induces offspring adrenal gland dysfunction in an age- and sex-specific manner, which may contribute to long-term programmed disease in male offspring after maternal stress.
Journal of Endocrinology
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