Gender-specific effects of prenatal stress on emotional reactivity and stress physiology of goat kids

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
S. Roussel, A. Boissy, D. Montigny, P. H. Hemsworth, C. Duvaux-Ponter
Hormones and Behavior
, , , , , , , , ,

The aims of this study were to investigate the effects of maternal stress during pregnancy on the emotional reactivity, the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, and the sympatho-adrenomedullary (SAM) system of goat offspring according to their gender, and to investigate the role of maternal cortisol in prenatal stress effects. Goats were exposed to ten transports in isolation or ten ACTH injections (0.125 IU/kg body weight) during the last third of pregnancy. Control goats remained undisturbed. No effect of repeated transport during the last third of pregnancy was found on basal cortisol concentrations of the offspring. However, an increase in phenylethanolamine N-methyl transferase activity in the adrenals was observed in prenatally stressed kids compared to control kids (P = 0.031). In the presence of novelty, prenatally stressed female kids were more active (P = 0.049) than control females; they also showed more signs of arousal (P = 0.039) and tended to explore more of their environment (P = 0.053) in reaction to a startling stimulus. On the contrary, prenatally stressed male kids tended to be less active (P = 0.051) than control male kids but showed more signs of distress (P = 0.047) in the presence of novelty. Intermediate effects were found on the emotional reactivity to novelty of kids born from dams given injections of ACTH. In conclusion, transport stress in pregnant goats affects the sympatho-adrenomedullary system and the emotional reactivity of their offspring in a gender-specific manner. Moreover, the effects of prenatal transport and ACTH injections showed some similarities but differed in some critical details.


Back to Resources