Sex differences in the neuroendocrine response to short-term fasting in rhesus macaques

J. Lado-Abeal, J. Robert-McComb, X. P. Qian, R. Leproult, E. Van Cauter, Reid L. Norman

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When energy intake is restricted in mammals, there are neuroendocrine adjustments in the secretion of reproductive and metabolic hormones to reallocate energy for vital functions. In the present study, we investigated whether there were differences in the luteinising hormone (LH), growth hormone (GH) and cortisol responses to a 48-h fast in adult gonad-intact male and female rhesus macaques. In both male and female macaques, blood glucose levels were significantly lower in fasted than in control studies, and levels were higher in males than in females. Male rhesus monkeys had significantly lower (P < 0.01) mean serum LH levels after a 48-h fast than under fed conditions and this was attributable primarily to a decrease in the amount of LH released during each secretory episode. In fasted females, serum LH levels were significantly greater (P < 0.05) than during the fed conditions but no differences were found in pulse amplitude or in the number of pulses. Almost twice as many GH pulses were observed in both males and females during fasting but there was no difference in either mean serum GH levels or pulse amplitude between control and fasted studies. A typical diurnal profile in cortisol levels was observed in both sexes and both experimental conditions. Under control conditions, male macaques released less cortisol than females, and although fasting increased mean cortisol levels in both males and females, only the males shown a significant rise over levels observed in control studies. The changes in plasma LH and cortisol levels in fasted rhesus macaques are similar to those observed in humans and suggest that gonadotrophin and corticotrophin secretion are more resistant to short-term energy deprivation in female than in male primates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-444
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Cortisol
  • Fasting
  • GH
  • LH
  • Primate
  • Reproduction


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