Undernutrition and stage of gestation influence fetal adipose tissue gene expression

Jacqueline M Wallace, John S Milne, Raymond P Aitken, Dale A Redmer, Lawrence P. Reynolds, Justin S Luther, Graham W Horgan, Clare L Adam

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21 Citations (Scopus)
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Low birthweight is a risk factor for neonatal mortality and adverse metabolic health, both associated with inadequate prenatal adipose tissue development. Here we investigated the impact of maternal undernutrition on expression of genes regulating fetal perirenal adipose tissue (PAT) development and function at gestation days 89 and 130 (term=145d). Singleton fetuses were taken from adolescent ewes fed control (C) intake to maintain adiposity throughout pregnancy or undernourished (UN) to maintain conception weight but deplete maternal reserves (n=7/group). Fetal weight was independent of maternal intake at day 89 but by day 130 fetuses from UN dams were 17% lighter with lower PAT mass containing fewer unilocular adipocytes. Relative PAT expression of IGF1, IGF2, IGF2R and peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor-gamma (PPARG) mRNA was lower in UN than in C, predominantly at day 89. Independent of maternal nutrition, PAT gene expression of PPARG, glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, hormone sensitive lipase, leptin, uncoupling protein-1 and prolactin receptor increased and IGF1, IGF2, IGF1R, IGF2R decreased between 89 and 130 days. Fatty acid synthase and lipoprotein lipase (LPL) mRNAs were not influenced by nutrition or stage of pregnancy. Females had greater LPL and leptin mRNA than males, and LPL, leptin and PPARG mRNAs were decreased by UN at day 89 in females only. PAT gene expression correlations with PAT mass were stronger at day 89 than day 130. These data suggest that key genes regulating adipose tissue development and function are active from mid-gestation when they are sensitive to maternal undernutrition. This leads to reduced fetal adiposity by late pregnancy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-275
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Molecular Endocrinology
Issue number3
Early online date1 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Funded by the Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS), including the Strategic Partnership for Animal Science Excellence (SPASE) and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (HD045784). None of the authors had any financial or personal conflicts of interest.


  • adipose tissue
  • gene expression
  • fetal
  • undernutrition
  • sheep


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