Reproduction and environmental stressors are generally thought to be associated with a cost to the individual experiencing them, but the physiological mechanisms mediating costs of reproduction and maternal effects remain poorly understood. Studies examining the effects of environmental stressors on a female's physiological state and body condition during reproduction, as well as the physiological condition of offspring, have yielded equivocal results. Mitochondrial physiology and oxidative stress have been implicated as important mediators of life-history trade-offs. The goal of this investigation was to uncover the physiological mechanisms responsible for the enhanced trade-off between self-maintenance and offspring investment when an animal is exposed to stressful conditions during reproduction. To that end, we manipulated circulating corticosterone (CORT) levels by orally supplementing lactating female mice with CORT and investigated mitochondrial physiology and oxidative stress of both the reproductive females and their young. We found that maternal CORT exposure resulted in lower litter mass at weaning, but mitochondrial performance and oxidative status of females were not impacted. We also found potential beneficial effects of maternal CORT on mitochondrial function (e.g. higher respiratory control ratio) and oxidative stress (e.g. lower reactive oxygen species production) of offspring in adulthood, suggesting that elevated maternal CORT may be a signal for early-life adversity and prepare the organism with a predictive, adaptive response to future stressors.

You do not currently have access to this content.