Müller, C., B. Almasi, A. Roulin , C. W. Breuner , S. Jenni-Eiermann & L. Jenni (2009)

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

Further information

Gen. Comp. Endocrinol. 160: 59–66



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.