Effects of corticosterone treatment on growth, development, and the corticosterone response to handling in young Japanese quail (Coturnix coturnix japonica).Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2007 Nov; 148(3):531-43.CB
Corticosterone, a glucocorticoid secreted during stress responses, has a range of actions that help birds respond to stressors. Although effects of corticosterone treatment have been described in several avian species, the impacts of defined increases in plasma corticosterone on early development and on corticosterone stress responses are little known. These issues were addressed by providing quail with different doses of corticosterone in drinking water from days 8 to 38 post-hatch. The corticosterone dose consumed by each bird during treatment days 15-30 was calculated by measuring water intake. The corticosterone dose was inversely, but weakly, correlated with weights of the bursa, thymus, spleen, liver, testes, oviduct, muscle, and body, and positively correlated with peritoneal fat deposition. When birds were divided into groups based on their corticosterone intake, weights of the spleen, thymus, bursa, muscle, testes, and oviduct were significantly reduced in birds receiving the highest doses; with the exception of muscle, similar reductions were also observed in birds receiving medium doses, and thymic growth was inhibited in birds receiving low doses. The acute corticosterone stress response was measured by handling birds for 15 min. Plasma corticosterone was transiently increased at 15 min in control birds in response to the handling stressor. Some birds consuming low doses of corticosterone had corticosterone responses similar to control birds. Initial corticosterone concentrations were elevated in birds consuming higher doses of corticosterone. Plasma corticosterone in these birds decreased from 0 to 15 min, then increased from 15 to 30 min. The initial decrease could be due to corticosterone clearance, whilst the increase could indicate that the birds had a greater response than control birds to isolation as a stressor. Corticosterone treatment may have reduced the strength of corticosterone negative feedback within the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis. The results indicate that individuals and organs differ in their sensitivity to corticosterone. Moreover, elevated plasma corticosterone may disrupt the acute corticosterone stress response, and may thus reduce the ability of birds to cope with stressors.