Intrauterine Position Effects
A review of the literature suggests that individual variability in sex-related traits may be influenced by variations in hormonal exposure during fetal development. In litter-bearing mammals, fetuses develop in utero and may be subjected to differing hormonal environments based upon the sex of neighboring fetuses. Female fetuses developing between two males tend to show masculinized anatomical, physiological and behavioral traits as adults. Female fetuses developing without adjacent males, on the other hand, tend to show more feminized traits as adults. These traits include permanently altered hormone levels, reproductive organs, aggressive behaviors, secondary sex ratios and susceptibility to endocrine disruption. This intrauterine effect is due to the transfer of testosterone from male fetuses to adjacent fetuses. While these effects have been most clearly demonstrated in mice, other rodents and swine also show intrauterine position (IUP) effects. Some of these effects are similar to the influence of prenatal stress on adult phenotypes. A few reports on human twins suggest that variability in some masculine and feminine traits may be due to intrauterine hormonal signals. IUP effects may impact a number of scientific fields of research such as endocrine disruption, toxicology, population biology, animal production and health.
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
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