Response of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to stimulation tests before and after exercise training in old and young Standardbred mares

N. R. Liburt, K. H. McKeever, K. Malinowski, D. N. Smarsh, R. J. Geor

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11 Scopus citations


This study tested the hypotheses that ageinduced alteration in cortisol, ACTH, and glucose concentrations are due to differences in the response of the hypothalamic- pituitary-adrenal axis and that exercise training would attenuate these differences. Six old (22.0 ± 0.7 yr; mean ± SE) and 6 young (7.3 ± 0.6 yr) unfit Standardbred mares ran 3 graded exercise tests (GXT): before (GXT1), after 8 wk of training (GXT2), and at study end at 15 wk (GXT3). Mares trained 3 d/wk at 60% maximum heart rate. Each mare underwent 5 endocrine stimulation tests pre- and posttraining: 1) control (CON), 2) adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTHtest), 3) combined dexamethasone suppression/ACTH (DEX/ACTH), 4) dexamethasone suppression (DEX), and 5) combined DEX/corticotropin releasing factor (DEX/CRF). For CON, there was no difference in plasma cortisol between age groups pretraining (P = 0.19), but young mares had a 102% higher mean (P = 0.02) plasma cortisol concentration than old mares posttraining. The pretraining ACTHtest showed young mares had a 72% higher (P = 0.05) overall plasma cortisol concentration compared to old. There was no overall age difference in cortisol in the posttraining ACTHtest, but old mares still had lower cortisol concentrations at 30 min during the test, suggesting decreased adrenal response to ACTH stimulation. There was no difference in cortisol response between old and young mares in DEX, DEX/ ACTH, or DEX/CRF tests. Young mares had higher (P = 0.02) overall plasma cortisol concentration posttraining in response to DEX/ACTH, but old mares showed no change. In CON and DEX/CRF, there were no age differences in plasma ACTH concentration, pre- or posttraining. Pretraining, there was no age difference in glucose response to DEX, but posttraining old mares had a 4% (P = 0.04) lower overall plasma glucose concentration compared to young. Posttraining, old mares had lower mean plasma glucose concentrations during DEX compared to pretraining (P = 0.02), but there was no change prevs. posttraining in young mares (P = 0.19). Old and young mares had lower plasma glucose concentrations posttraining during DEX/ACTH (P < 0.001 and P = 0.05, respectively) and DEX/CRF (P < 0.001 and P = 0.003, respectively) compared to pretraining. Both the pituitary and adrenal glands experience a decline in function with age although the exact mechanisms behind such changes remain unknown. Exercise training facilitates the counteraction of these deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5208-5219
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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