The effect of fetal pig size and stage of gestation on tissue fatty acid metabolism and profile

C J McNeil, A M Finch, K R Page, S D Clarke, C J Ashworth, H J McArdle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)


The fetus requires an adequate supply of fatty acids for optimum growth and development. It has been hypothesized that reduced activity of enzymes of fatty acid metabolism could contribute to inadequate fetal growth. In a porcine model of differential fetal growth we examined heart and liver fatty acid synthase, Delta 5-desaturase and Delta 6-desaturase gene expression and measured hepatic fatty acid profile to assess long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid status. On gestation days 45, 65 and 100 sows were killed and tissues extracted from an average-sized fetus and the smallest fetus from each litter. As early as day 45, considerable hepatic Delta 5- and Delta 6-desaturase was detected, and this expression significantly increased as gestation progressed. In contrast, cardiac desaturase expression remained stable with time. Fatty acid synthase expression was greatest at day 65 in the liver, but was not expressed in the heart. Overall, the smallest fetus did not exhibit reduced tissue Delta 5- or Delta 6-desaturase expression or compromised polyunsaturated fatty acid status at any stage. In fact, small fetuses expressed more cardiac Delta 5-desaturase than their average-sized siblings, possibly in response to a stress to the heart. It is clear from this study that fatty acid metabolism changes markedly as gestation progresses, and reduced fatty acid supply does not cause inadequate growth in this porcine model of fetal development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)757-763
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2005


  • desaturase activities
  • delta-6 desaturase
  • dietary-protein
  • synthase genes
  • birth-weight
  • liver
  • expression
  • pregnancy
  • rat
  • cloning


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