Previous studies on polytocous rodents have revealed that the fetal intrauterine position influences its later anatomy, physiology, reproductive performance and behavior. To investigate whether the position of a fetus in the uterus modifies the development of the brain, we examined whether the structure of the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the preoptic area (SDN-POA) of rat brains accorded to their intrauterine positions. Brain sections of adult rats gestated between two male fetuses (2M) and between two female fetuses (2F) in the uterus were analysed for their immunoreactivity to calbindin-D28k, which is a marker of the SDN-POA. The SDN-POA volume of the 2M adult males was greater than that of the 2F adult males, whereas the SDN-POA volume of the 2M and 2F adult females showed no significant difference. This result indicated that contiguous male fetuses have a masculinizing effect on the SDN-POA volume of the male. To further examine whether the increment of SDN-POA volume in adulthood was due to exposure to elevated steroid hormones during fetal life, concentrations of testosterone and 17β-estradiol in the brain were measured with 2M and 2F fetuses during gestation, respectively. On gestation day 21, the concentrations of testosterone and 17β-estradiol in the brain were significantly higher in the 2M male rats as compared with the 2F male rats. The results suggested that there was a relationship between the fetal intrauterine position, hormone transfer from adjacent fetuses and the SDN-POA volume in adult rat brains.
- Sex differentiation
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