Oral Presentation The International Congress of Neuroendocrinology 2014

Early glucocorticoid exposure and life-history: understanding the long-term effects on global gene expression changes in the brain and telomere dynamics (#31)

Valeria Marasco 1
  1. University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom

Chronic exposure to stress, especially during development, can induce long-term changes that persist into adulthood. The sensitivity of developing individuals to stressful conditions can vary across different developmental stages, producing a variety of phenotypes in later life. These changes are expected to optimise overall fitness benefits. However, while they may be beneficial in early life, they can also carry a lifespan penalty over the longer-term. Although the mechanisms remain unclear, evidence suggests that such effects might be mediated via programmed gene expression changes in specific brain regions primarily affected by the actions of glucocorticoid hormones. Glucocorticoid hormones are also known to have negative effects on telomere dynamics, and hence, potentially on longevity.  I will discuss two sets of experiments addressing these issues. We experimentally elevated corticosterone concentrations in ovo and/or in the endogenous circulation of juvenile Japanese quail to examine the long-term global effects of pre- and/or post-natal exposure to corticosterone on both hippocampal and hypothalamic transcriptomes into adulthood. Overall, the results suggest that the effects on the brain transcriptome signature were tissue-specific, i.e. stronger in the hippocampus than the hypothalamus. The effects also appear to be specific to particular developmental stages, with the pre-natal treatment having a larger impact on the hippocampus and the post-natal treatment having a larger impact on the hypothalamus. These data suggest that interactions between pre- and post-natal developmental conditions can significantly influence the programming effects of glucocorticoids on the adult phenotype. We have also been experimentally manipulating maternal stress exposure and pre-natal corticosterone in the zebra finch and examining the transgenerational and direct effects effect on telomere dynamics. I will use these two sets of experiments to present an integrated picture of the effects of pre- and post-natal stress exposure on phenotypic development and long-term survival.