Programming the offspring of the pig by prenatal social stress: Neuroendocrine activity and behaviour

S Jarvis, C Moinard, S K Robson, E Baxter, E Ormandy, A J Douglas, J R Seckl, J A Russell, Alistair Lawrence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This study provides evidence in the pig that stress experienced during gestation has long-lasting effects on offspring daughters, including their maternal behaviour. Thirty-six primiparous sows were divided into control and two groups that were stressed (by social mixing) during either the second (Mix 2) or third (Mix 3) trimester of pregnancy. We found detrimental effects of mixing on the mothers' growth, body lesions, and cortisol secretion, but did not observe any significant effects on reproductive parameters including birth weight. At 60 days of age, 48 daughters were randomly selected from the three treatments: half were challenged using a restraint and isolation test. Then, all were culled and brain tissue was collected. In situ hybridisation measurements showed increased expression of CRH mRNA in the PVN in unrestrained Mix 2 and in the amygdala of Mix 2 and Mix 3 daughters. At 67 days, 24 further daughters were mixed to measure their responses to this social stress. All showed increased salivary cortisol secretion, but Mix 2 and Mix 3 daughters showed a greater and longer response than controls. Finally, all 24 were inseminated and at parturition maternal behaviour was measured. Mix 2 and Mix 3 daughters were more restless and more responsive to piglets that approached the head of the sow, traits which previously have been shown to be a component of abnormal maternal behaviour. Indeed, Mix 2 and Mix 3 daughters also tended to bite at their piglets more than control daughters. (c) 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-80
Number of pages13
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2006

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal/physiology
  • Body Weight/physiology
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone/biosynthesis
  • Female
  • Hydrocortisone/metabolism
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Neurosecretory Systems/physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • RNA, Messenger/biosynthesis
  • Reproduction/physiology
  • Restraint, Physical
  • Saliva/metabolism
  • Saliva/physiology
  • Social Dominance
  • Stress, Psychological/physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological/psychology
  • Swine
  • Weaning
  • Weight Gain/physiology


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