The visible burrow system (VBS) is a model used to study chronic social stress in colony-housed rats. A hierarchy develops among the males resulting in dominant (DOM) and subordinate (SUB) animals. Hierarchy-associated changes in body weight, body composition, behavior, and neuroendocrine measures have been observed. After 14 d of VBS housing, SUB animals have decreased body weight, elevated corticosterone, and decreased testosterone (T), compared with DOM animals and controls, placing SUB animals in an ideal endocrine state to regain lost body weight as adipose tissue. It is hypothesized that maintaining constant androgen concentrations in SUB males during stress will prevent body weight loss by maintaining more lean body mass. To test this, animals were gonadectomized and implanted with SILASTIC implants containing T, 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT), or cholesterol. Implants maintained constant physiological levels of T. Standard intact, T, and DHT implant colonies formed hierarchies, whereas cholesterol colonies did not. Androgen manipulations significantly altered offensive and defensive behaviors only on the first day of VBS housing. After VBS stress, intact, T, and DHT SUB animals weighed less and lost more adipose and lean tissue than DOM and control males, whereas DOM animals primarily lost adipose tissue. However, on recovery, DHT SUB animals maintained more lean tissue than intact SUB animals. Oral glucose tolerance tests revealed that glucose clears faster in stressed T-implanted males that have increased adipose tissue. Overall, these data suggest that constant androgen concentrations in SUB animals do not prevent weight loss and changes in body composition during stress but do so during recovery.
ASJC Scopus subject areas