Effects of photoperiod and food availability on growth, leptin, sexual maturation and maintenance in the Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus)
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Reproductive activity of Mongolian gerbils is regulated by photoperiod nevertheless body weight regulation is controlled without ambient photoperiod. Food intake is a major factor affecting rodent reproductive efficiency. Leptin is a hormone secreted by adipose tissue and modulates food intake, energy expenditure and body fat stores. In this study we studied the interaction of photoperiod and food availability on growth, sexual maturation and leptin concentration in the male and female gerbils. Gerbils were gestated and reared in either 14L:10D or 2L:22D. At weaning, gerbils were housed individually and divided into three groups: fed ad libitum, fed 80% of ad libitum or fed 60% of ad libitum. Body weights were recorded at weaning and every week thereafter. After twelve weeks of treatment, animals were sacrificed and testes and uterine weights were determined and blood was collected for leptin measurement. Food restriction reduced body weight and inhibited reproductive development. Absolute paired testis weights were similar in ad lib and 80% of ad lib groups but significantly different compared with the 60% of ad lib group in both photoperiods. Body weights were also directly dependent upon the level of food restriction. Uterine mass was only affected in the 60% of ad lib group in 14L but both food restriction levels significantly affected the uterine weights in 2L. Significant variations were found in leptin profiles. Leptin concentration was highest in ad lib and 80% of ad lib groups and lowest in 60% of ad lib groups. These results suggest that the reproductive activity of Mongolian gerbils is sensitive to food intake and multiple potential environmental cues (e.g., food availability, temperature) can be utilized.