Prenatal Stress Feminizes and Demasculinizes the Behavior of Males

Science  07 Jan 1972:
Vol. 175, Issue 4017, pp. 82-84
DOI: 10.1126/science.175.4017.82


Male rats were exposed to prenatal or postnatal stress, or both. The prenatally stressed males showed low levels of male copulatory behavior and high rates of female lordotic responding. Postnatal stress had no effect. The modifications are attributed to stress-mediated alterations in the ratio of adrenal to gonadal androgens during critical stages of sexual differentiation. Specifically, it appears that stress causes an increase in the weak adrenal androgen, androstenedione, from the maternal or fetal adrenal cortices, or from both, and a concurrent decrease in the potent gonadal androgen, testosterone.