The factors that influence the timing of puberty and the onset of adult fertility are poorly understood. While focus on the juvenile period has provided insights into how growth-related cues affect pubertal timing, growth velocity during infancy that is sustained into the juvenile period may be important. On the other hand, social factors, specifically exposure to psychosocial stressors, can delay sexual maturation, possibly by altering growth velocities during development. Using female rhesus monkeys, the present study used a prospective analysis to determine how neonatal growth hormone (GH) inhibition with a sandostatin analog or suppression of the pituitary-gonadal axis with a GnRH analog affected growth and sexual maturation. A separate retrospective analysis was done assessing the effects of social dominance status during development on pubertal timing. Because a specific polymorphism in the gene encoding the serotonin (5HT) reuptake transporter increases vulnerability to psychosocial stressors, females were also genotyped and were then classified as socially dominant, having both alleles for the long promoter variant or having at least one allele for the short promoter variant, or as socially subordinate, having the long variant or having the short variant. Neonatal treatments were not balanced for social status or genotype, so analyses were performed separately. Although the neonatal treatments reduced GH secretion postnatally and through the juvenile period, neither growth nor sexual maturation was affected. In contrast, the retrospective analysis showed sexual maturation was delayed significantly in subordinate females carrying at least one allele of the short promoter variant in the gene encoding the 5HT reuptake transporter, and this delay was associated with reduced GH and leptin secretion during the juvenile phase but not with differences in growth velocities from birth. These data suggest that decreased neonatal GH secretion does not adversely affect sexual maturation, but that polymorphisms in the gene encoding the 5HT transporter modulate the adverse consequences of social subordination on the timing of puberty in female rhesus monkeys.
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Vol. 78 • No. 4