General and Comparative Endocrinology
High levels of prenatal cortisol have been previously reported to retard fetal growth. Although cortisol plays a pivotal role in prenatal maturation, heightened exposure to cortisol can result in lower body weights at birth, which have been shown to be associated with adult diseases like hypertension and cardiovascular disease. This study examines the relationship between natural variation in gestational cortisol and fetal and postnatal growth in marmoset monkeys. Urinary samples obtained during the mother’s gestation were analyzed for cortisol. Marmoset body mass index (BMI) was measured from birth through 540 days in 30- or 60-day intervals. Multi-level modeling was used to test if marmoset growth over time was predicted by changes in gestational cortisol controlling for time, sex, litter, and litter size. The results show that offspring exposed to intra-uterine environments with elevated levels of cortisol had lower linear BMI rates of change shortly after birth than did offspring exposed to lower levels of cortisol, but exhibited a higher curvilinear growth rate during adolescence. Average daily change in gestational cortisol during the first trimester had a stronger relationship with postnatal growth than change during the third trimester. Higher exposure to cortisol during gestation does alter developmental trajectories, however there appears to be a catch-up period during later post-natal growth. These observations contribute to a larger discussion about the relationship of maternal glucocorticoids on offspring development and the possibility of an earlier vulnerable developmental window.
Mustoe, Aaryn C.; Birnie, Andrew K.; Korgan, Andrew V.; Santo, Jonathan Bruce; and French, Jeffrey, "Natural variation in gestational cortisol is associated with patterns of growth in marmoset monkeys (Callithrix geoffroyi)" (2012). Psychology Faculty Publications. 40.