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Maternal effects underlie ageing costs of growth in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata).

Authors: Mathilde L ML. Tissier, Tony D TD. Williams, Fran├žois F. Criscuolo
Published: 05/14/2014, PloS one


Maternal effects provide a mechanism to adapt offspring phenotype and optimize the mother's fitness to current environmental conditions. Transferring steroids to the yolk is one way mothers can translate environmental information into potential adaptive signals for offspring. However, maternally-derived hormones might also have adverse effects for offspring. For example, recent data in zebra finch chicks suggested that ageing related-processes (i.e. oxidative stress and telomere loss) were increased after egg-injection of corticosterone (CORT). Still, we have few experimental data describing the effect of maternal effects on the growth-ageing trade-off in offspring. Here, we chronically treated pre-laying zebra finch females (Taeniopygia guttata) with 17-╬▓-estradiol (E2) or CORT, and followed offspring growth and cellular ageing rates (oxidative stress and telomere loss). CORT treatment decreased growth rate in male chicks and increased rate of telomere loss in mothers and female offspring. E2 increased body mass gain in male offspring, while reducing oxidative stress in both sexes but without affecting telomere loss. Since shorter telomeres were previously found to be a proxy of individual lifespan in zebra finches, maternal effects may, through pleiotropic effects, be important determinants of offspring life-expectancy by modulating ageing rate during embryo and post-natal growth.

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