Glucocorticoid (GC) hormones are significant regulators of homeostasis. The physiological effects of GCs critically depend on the time of exposure (short vs. long) as well as on their circulating levels (baseline vs. stress-induced). Previous experiments, in which chronic and high elevation of GC levels was induced, indicate that GCs impair both the activity of the immune system and the oxidative balance. Nonetheless, our knowledge on how mildly elevated GC levels, a situation much more common in nature, might influence homeostasis is limited. Therefore, we studied whether an increase in GC level within the baseline range suppresses or enhances condition (body mass, hematocrit and coccidian infestation) and physiological state (humoral innate immune system activity and oxidative balance). We implanted captive house sparrows Passer domesticus with either 60 days release corticosterone (CORT) or control pellets. CORT-treated birds had elevated baseline CORT levels one week after the implantation, but following this CORT returned to its pre-treatment level and the experimental groups had similar CORT levels one and two months following the implantation. The mass of tail feathers grown during the initial phase of treatment was smaller in treated than in control birds. CORT implantation had a transient negative effect on body mass and hematocrit, but both of these traits resumed the pre-treatment values by one month post-treatment. CORT treatment lowered oxidative damage to lipids (malondialdehyde) and enhanced constitutive innate immunity at one week and one month post-implantation. Our findings suggest that a relatively short-term (i.e. few days) elevation of baseline CORT might have a positive and stimulatory effect on animal physiology.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)