Effects of corticosterone pellets on baseline and stress-induced corticosterone and corticosteroid-binding-globulin

Claudia Müller, Bettina Almasi, Alexandre Roulin, Creagh W. Breuner, Susanne Jenni-Eiermann, Lukas Jenni

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56 Scopus citations


Exogenous administration of glucocorticoids is a widely used and efficient tool to investigate the effects of elevated concentrations of these hormones in field studies. Because the effects of corticosterone are dose and duration-dependent, the exact course of plasma corticosterone levels after exogenous administration needs to be known. We tested the performance of self-degradable corticosterone pellets (implanted under the skin) in elevating plasma corticosterone levels. We monitored baseline (sampled within 3 min after capture) total corticosterone levels and investigated potential interactions with corticosteroid-binding-globulin (CBG) capacity and the endogenous corticosterone response to handling in Eurasian kestrel Falco tinnunculus and barn owl Tyto alba nestlings. Corticosterone pellets designed for a 7-day-release in rodents elevated circulating baseline total corticosterone during only 2-3 days compared to placebo-nestlings. Highest levels occurred 1-2 days after implantation and levels decreased strongly thereafter. CBG capacity was also increased, resulting in a smaller, but still significant, increase in baseline free corticosterone levels. The release of endogenous corticosterone as a response to handling was strong in placebo-nestlings, but absent 2 and 8 days after corticosterone pellet implantation. This indicates a potential shut-down of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis after the 2-3 days of elevated baseline corticosterone levels. 20 days after pellet implantation, the endogenous corticosterone response to handling of nestlings implanted with corticosterone pellets attained similar levels as in placebo-nestlings. Self-degradable pellets proved to be an efficient tool to artificially elevate circulating baseline corticosterone especially in field studies, requiring only one intervention. The resulting peak-like elevation of circulating corticosterone, the concomitant elevation of CBG capacity, and the absence of an endogenous corticosterone response to an acute stressor have to be taken into account.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-66
Number of pages8
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009


  • Acute stress response
  • Aves
  • Corticosteroid-binding-globulin
  • Corticosterone administration
  • Falco tinnunculus
  • Negative feedback regulation
  • Post-natal
  • Self-degrading implants
  • Tyto alba


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