Pre-natal social stress and post-natal pain affect the developing pig reproductive axis
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This study assessed the effect of pre-natal social stress and post-natal pain on the reproductive development of young (approximately day 40) pigs. Male pigs carried by sows that were stressed by mixing with unfamiliar older sows for two 1-week periods during mid-pregnancy had lower plasma testosterone (0.54 vs 0.86 ng/ml, s.e.d.=0.11; P=0.014) and oestradiol (E2; 22.9 vs 38.7 pg/ml, s.e.d.=7.80; P=0.021) concentrations compared with males carried by unstressed control sows. Although there was no effect of pre-natal stress on female E2 concentrations, female pigs carried by stressed sows had fewer primordial ovarian follicles (log −4.32/μm2 vs −4.00/μm2, s.e.d.=0.136; P=0.027). Tail amputation on day 3 after birth reduced E2 concentrations in female (4.78 vs 6.84 pg/ml, s.e.d.=0.86; P=0.03) and in male (25.6 vs 34.9 pg/ml, s.e.d.=3.56; P=0.021) pigs and reduced both testis weight (0.09% of body weight vs 0.10% of body weight, s.e.d.=0.003; P=0.01) and the percentage of proliferating Leydig cells (1.97 vs 2.12, s.e.d.=0.114; P=0.036) compared with sham-amputated littermate controls. There was a significant (P=0.036) interaction between the effects of pre-natal stress and post-natal pain on testicular expression of the steroidogenic enzyme 17α-hydroxylase, such that amputation increased expression in pigs born to control sows, but reduced expression in animals born to stressed sows. This study shows that stressful procedures associated with routine animal husbandry can disrupt the developing reproductive axis.
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