Titers of testosterone in plasma were determined by radioimmunoassay in male rat fetuses of stressed and control mothers on days 17, 18, 19, 21, and 23 (the day of birth) after conception. In fetuses of stressed mothers, testosterone concentrations were highest on day 17, declined on days 18 and 19, and then remained unchanged. In the control fetuses, testosterone increased from relatively low concentrations on day 17 to the highest amounts on days 18 and 19, and then declined. Thus, the persistence of feminine and impaired masculine sexual behavior in male offspring of stressed mothers could be due to the absence of a surge of circulating testosterone during days 18 and 19 after conception, a period postulated to be critical in the development of the central nervous system in the rat.
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