The onset and regulation of puberty is determined by functional development of the brain-pituitary-gonad (BPG) axis. Stress has been shown to interfere with reproduction and the functioning of the BPG axis. The response to chronic and severe stress may require much energy and force the organism to make adaptive choices. Energy that is normally available for processes like growth, immune response, or reproduction will be channeled into restoration of the disturbed homeostasis. Cortisol plays a key role in the homeostatic adaptation during or after stress. In the present study, immature common carp were fed with cortisol-containing food pellets covering the pubertal period. We showed that cortisol caused an inhibition of pubertal development, by affecting directly or indirectly all components of the BPG axis. The salmon GnRH content of the brain was decreased. Luteinizing hormone- and FSH-encoding mRNA levels in the pituitary and LH plasma levels were diminished by long-term cortisol treatment, as was the testicular androgen secretion. Testicular development, reflected by gonadosomatic index and the first wave of spermatogenesis, was retarded.
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