Food restriction in pregnant rat-like hamsters (Cricetulus triton) affects endocrine, immune function and odor attractiveness of male offspring

Physiol Behav. 2004 Sep 15;82(2-3):453-8. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2004.04.008.


We studied the effect of intrauterine food restriction (FR) on the immune function, endocrine status and attractiveness of scents of male rat-like hamsters, Cricetulus triton. Work was conducted on field-caught parents from the North China plain and their laboratory-born progeny. Restricted pregnant dams were fed 70% of the mean daily intake of hamsters with free access to food. FR caused a marked and protracted weight reduction of the body, adrenal, testes and epididymides in males. During the refeeding period, the spleen and thymus, but not the adrenal weight of the malnourished offspring caught up with that of the control after about 60 days. The present results demonstrated that estrous females preferred the odors of control males to that of FR males. Males whose mothers were food restricted during gestation had lower testosterone concentrations, immune responses and reproductive organ mass but had higher circulating cortisol than did the males in the control group. Thus, the effect of maternal FR may be an important cause in population regulation in the rat-like hamster. The testosterone level was positively correlated with immune function in rat-like hamsters, but the lower immunity was not suppressed by higher level of testosterone, as previously suggested. We also found a negative relationship between cortisol and immune function in the rat-like hamster.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / blood
  • Body Composition
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus / blood
  • Cricetulus / immunology
  • Cricetulus / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior / physiology*
  • Population Dynamics
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Antibodies
  • Testosterone
  • Hydrocortisone