Presence of Mother and Unfamiliar Female Alters Levels of Testosterone, Progesterone, Cortisol, ACTH and Behavior in Maturing Guinea Pigs

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Although the guinea pig is characterized by precocial physical development and minimal active maternal care, studies suggest the presence of the mother can influence neuroendocrine and behavioral activity of offspring even well beyond weaning. Previous results may have been influenced by the procedure of housing weaned subjects with the mother to within 2 days of testing. The present study examined ∼40-day-old guinea pigs housed apart from the mother for 0 (not rehoused), 2, or 10 days. Rehousing without the mother led to elevations in plasma testosterone (measured in males), progesterone (measured in females), cortisol, and adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) (both measured in males and females). Offspring housed without the mother for 10 days had the highest progesterone, cortisol, and ACTH levels. Testosterone elevations were observed in 2-day-, but not 10-day-, rehoused animals. Regardless of rehousing condition, 60 min isolation in a novel test cage elevated progesterone, cortisol, and ACTH, and reduced testosterone. These effects were all moderated if the subject was tested with the mother or another female. Sexual behavior toward the mother was observed frequently, but only in males housed apart from her prior to testing. Overall, males and females that had been housed apart from the mother interacted with her as they would an unfamiliar female. Our results corroborate previous findings, suggest the effect of housing apart from the mother on male testosterone is transitory, and indicate that continuous housing with the mother past weaning suppresses circulating progesterone in females and cortisol and ACTH in both sexes.



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