University Of Tasmania
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Does adrenal responsiveness vary with sex and reproductive status in Egernia whitii, a viviparous skink?

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 19:02 authored by Cartledge, VA, Susan JonesSusan Jones
In mammals, oestrogens generally stimulate adrenal function whilst androgens are inhibitory, and gestating females down-regulate their acute response to stressors in order to protect current reproductive investment. This study aimed to determine if adrenocortical function is similarly modulated by sex and reproductive status in the viviparous lizard, Egernia whitii. We compared the adrenocortical response to acute capture stress in female E. whitii during active (post-ovulatory and gestating) and quiescent (post-partum) phases of their reproductive cycle. We also compared the responses of reproductively quiescent males and females to acute stress and ACTH challenge to determine if there are sex-related differences in HPA axis activity when the influence of reproductive hormones is minimal. The females' responses to acute capture stress varied significantly with reproductive stage, and quiescent females displayed the strongest immediate response, with a rapid and sustained increase in plasma corticosterone (CORT) concentrations. Post-ovulatory females showed the most conservative adrenocortical response and while gestating females showed a large immediate response, this was not as prolonged as in quiescent females. Reproductively quiescent males and females exhibited similar responses to acute stress, and also responded similarly to ACTH injection, with plasma CORT reaching maximal concentrations of 52.1 and 59.4 ng/mL, respectively. Reproductively quiescent females treated with oestrogen exhibited greater responsiveness to ACTH than control females, although basal plasma CORT concentrations were unaltered: these results suggest that the attenuation of the acute stress response observed in reproductively active females of E. whitii may be regulated upstream of ACTH secretion. Our results demonstrate that the activity of the HPA axis is modulated by reproductive status in this viviparous reptile, and that gestating females are able to buffer their embryos from the potentially adverse effects of elevated plasma corticosteroids. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Publication title

General and Comparative Endocrinology








School of Natural Sciences


Academic Press Inc

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Expanding knowledge in the environmental sciences

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    University Of Tasmania