Seasonal variation in glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptors in metabolic tissues of the house sparrow (Passer domesticus)

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© 2014 Elsevier Inc. Glucocorticoid hormones like corticosterone (CORT) play essential metabolic roles at both baseline and stress-induced concentrations, and CORT titers vary seasonally in patterns occurring across many different vertebrate species. It has been hypothesized that CORT may vary seasonally due to changing energy requirements at different times of year. However, hormone effects are dependent on binding to receptors in target tissues, and receptors might also vary seasonally. CORT alters metabolism primarily through binding to two receptors, the high-affinity mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) and low-affinity glucocorticoid receptor (GR). We quantified GR and MR in metabolic tissues (liver, kidney, omental and subcutaneous fat, and gastrocnemius and pectoralis muscle) of wild-caught house sparrows (Passer domesticus) to assess these tissues' capacity to respond to CORT-mediated metabolic demands. We quantified receptors using radioligand binding assays in early and late winter, pre-egg-laying, breeding, late breeding and molt (n= 12 at each stage). MR binding did not vary significantly in any tissue over the course of the year. Because MR is associated with baseline CORT effects, this suggests that changing hormone titers may primarily regulate baseline CORT effects on metabolism. Seasonal modulation of GR binding occurred in every tissue but omental fat, though peak receptor density did not coincide with peak stress-induced CORT concentrations measured previously. Because GR is associated with stress-induced CORT effects, these data demonstrate seasonal patterns in stress-induced CORT are not driven by metabolic needs alone, although at different times of year sparrows may vary which tissue types respond to increased energy demands resulting from exposure to stressors.

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General and Comparative Endocrinology

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