The yolk of avian eggs contains steroid hormones, which may influence the development and behaviour of hatched birds. The aim of the present study was to investigate the concentration as well as the distribution of various gonadal steroids in the yolk spheres of quail eggs. Steroid concentrations of dissected yolk layers were analysed after alcoholic extraction using enzyme immunoassays (EIAs) for progesterone, androstenedione and testosterone. To monitor the uptake of testosterone into the yolk, radioactive testosterone was injected i.m. into six female quails. The radioactivity of yolk layers of subsequently laid eggs was measured by liquid scintillation counting. Progesterone concentrations were highest in the outer layer (median: 2265 nmol/kg). Androstenedione (median: 453 nmol/kg), as the major androgen, and testosterone (median: 99 nmol/kg) reached their highest concentrations in interior layers, whereas in the centre the concentration of all three hormones was low. No significant variation of steroid levels in yolk layers of subsequently laid eggs was found. The highest radioactivity was detected in the outer yolk layer in those eggs laid 1 day after injection and in subsequently laid eggs was measured nearer to the centre. These results indicated local origin of the steroid hormones especially because of the result that only 0.1% of the radioactivity entered the yolk. We conclude that steroid concentrations in the yolk layers reflected progesterone and androgen production of the cells of the follicular wall at the time.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
- EIA :
Arcos M (1972) Steroids in egg yolk. Steroids 19:25–34
Bahr JM, Wang SC, Huang MY, Calvo FO (1983) Steroid concentrations in isolated theca and granulosa layers of preovulatory cycle of the domestic hen. Biol Reprod 29:326–334
Eising CM, Eikenaar C, Schwabl H, Groothuis TGG (2001) Maternal androgen in black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus) eggs: consequences for chick development. Proc R Soc Lond Ser B 268:839–846
Etches RJ, Duke CE (1984) Progesterone, androstenedione and oestradiol content of theca and granulosa tissues of the four largest ovarian follicles during the ovulatory cycle of the hen (Gallus domesticus). J Endocr 103:71–76
Gomez Y, Velazquez PN, Juarez MA, Pedernera E (1998) Steroid metabolism in granulosa and theca interna cells from preovulatory follicles of domestic hen (Gallus domesticus). Anim Reprod Sci 52:81–91
Lipar JL, Ketterson ED (2000) Maternally derived yolk testosterone enhances the development of the hatching muscle in the red-winged backbird Agelaius phoenicus. Proc R Soc Lond Ser B 267:2005–2010
Lipar JL, Ketterson ED, Nolan V Jr, Casto JM (1999) Egg yolk layers vary in the concentration of steroid hormones in two avian species. Gen Comp Endocrinol 115:220–227
Möstl E, Spendier H, Kotrschal K (2001) Concentration of immunoreactive progesterone and androgens in the yolk of hen's egg (Gallus domesticus). Wien Tierärztl Mschr 88:62–65
Mori M, Aoki F, Kohmoto K, Shoda Y (1985) Metabolism of steroid hormones in vitro by follicular tissues of the Japanese quail. Biol Reprod 33:11–20
Onagbesan OM, Peddie MJ (1988) Steroid secretion by ovarian cells of the Japanese quails (Coturnix coturnix japonica). Gen Comp Endocrinol 72:272–281
Palme R, Möstl E (1994) Biotin-streptavidin enzyme immunoassay for the determination of oestrogens and androgens in boar faeces. In: Görög S (ed) Advances of steroid analyses, Budapest, pp 111–117
Palme R, Fischer P, Schildorfer H, Ismail MN (1996) Excretion of infused 14C-steroid hormones via faeces and urine in domestic livestock. Anim Reprod Sci 43:43–46
Porter TE, Hargis BM, Silsby JM, El Halawani ME (1989) Differential steroid production between theca interna and theca externa cells: a three-cell model for follicular steroidogenesis in avian species. Endocrinology 125:109–116
Royle NJ, Surai PF, Hartley IR (2001) Maternally delivered androgens and antioxidants in bird eggs: complementary but opposing effects? Behav Ecol 12:381–385
Schwabl H (1993) Yolk is a source of maternal testosterone in developing birds. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 90:11446–11450
Schwabl H (1997) The contents of maternal testosterone in house sparrow Passer domesticus eggs vary with breeding conditions. Naturwissenschaften 84:406–408
Schwarzenberger F, Tomasova K, Holeckova D, Matern B, Möstl E (1996) Measurement of faecal steroids in the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) using a group-specific enzyme immunoassay for 20-oxo-pregnanes. Zoo Biol 15:159–171
Sockman KW, Schwabl H (2001) Plasma corticosterone level in nestling American kestrels: effects of age, handling stress, yolk androgens and body condition. Gen Comp Endocrinol 122:205–212
Wilson CM, McNabb FM (1997) Maternal thyroid hormones in Japanese quail eggs and their influence on embryonic development. Gen Comp Endocrinol 107:153–165
The authors thank Mrs. A. Kuchar-Schulz for laboratory assistance and the national FWF for financial support (Nr.P12914-Bio). The animal experiment was realised according to the national authority.
Communicated by G. Heldmaier
About this article
Cite this article
Hackl, R., Bromundt, V., Daisley, J. et al. Distribution and origin of steroid hormones in the yolk of Japanese quail eggs (Coturnix coturnix japonica). J Comp Physiol B 173, 327–331 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00360-003-0339-7
- Japanese Quail
- Gonadal steroids
- Radioactive testosterone
- Enzyme immunoassay