Prenatal androgen treatment can alter LH secretion in female offspring, often with adverse effects on ovulatory function. However, female spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta), renowned for their highly masculinized genitalia, are naturally exposed to high androgen levels in utero. To determine whether LH secretion in spotted hyenas is affected by prenatal androgens, we treated pregnant hyenas with antiandrogens (flutamide and finasteride). Later, adult offspring of the antiandrogen-treated (AA) mothers underwent a GnRH challenge to identify sex differences in the LH response and to assess the effects of prenatal antiandrogen treatment. We further considered the effects of blocking prenatal androgens on plasma sex steroid concentrations. To account for potential differences in the reproductive state of females, we suppressed endogenous hormone levels with a long-acting GnRH agonist (GnRHa) and then measured plasma androgens after an hCG challenge. Plasma concentrations of LH were sexually dimorphic in spotted hyenas, with females displaying higher levels than males. Prenatal antiandrogen treatment also significantly altered the LH response to GnRH. Plasma estradiol concentration was higher in AA-females, whereas testosterone and androstenedione levels tended to be lower. This trend toward lower androgen levels disappeared after GnRHa suppression and hCG challenge. In males, prenatal antiandrogen treatment had long-lasting effects on circulating androgens: AA-males had lower T levels than control males. The sex differences and effects of prenatal antiandrogens on LH secretion suggest that the anterior pituitary gland of the female spotted hyena is partially masculinized by the high androgen levels that normally occur during development, without adverse effects on ovulatory function.
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