Exposure to maternal undernutrition during the periconceptional period results in an earlier prepartum activation of the fetal hypothalamo-pituitary- adrenal (HPA) axis and altered stress responsiveness in the offspring. It is not known whether such changes are a consequence of exposure of the oocyte and/or the early embryo to maternal undernutrition in the periconceptional period. We have compared the effects of 'periconceptional' undernutrition (PCUN: maternal undernutrition imposed from at least 45 days before until 6 days after conception), and 'early preimplantation' undernutrition (PIUN: maternal undernutrition imposed for only 6 days after conception) on the expression of genes in the fetal anterior pituitary that regulate adrenal growth and steroidogenesis, proopiomelanorcortin (POMC), prohormone convertase 1 (PC1), 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 and 2 (11βHSD1 and 2) and the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) in fetal sheep at 136-138 days of gestation. Pituitary GR mRNA expression was significantly lower in the PCUN and PIUN groups in both singletons and twins compared with controls, although this suppression of GR expression was not associated with hypermethylation of the exon 17 region of the GR gene. In twin fetuses, the pituitary 11βHSD1 mRNA expression was significantly higher in the PIUN group compared with the PCUN but not the control group. Thus, exposure of the single or twin embryo to maternal undernutrition for only 1 week after conception is sufficient to cause a suppression of the pituitary GR expression in late gestation. These changes may contribute to the increased stress responsiveness of the HPA axis in the offspring after exposure to poor nutrition during the periconceptional period.
|Number of pages||11|
|Journal||Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Oct 2013|
- hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis
- Key words fetal number
- maternal undernutrition