Metabolic programming of adipose tissue structure and function in male rat offspring by prenatal undernutritionReport as inadecuate

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Nutrition and Metabolism

, 11:50

First Online: 18 October 2014Received: 30 May 2014Accepted: 08 October 2014


BackgroundA number of different pathways to obesity with different metabolic outcomes are recognised. Prenatal undernutrition in rats leads to increased fat deposition in adulthood. However, the form of obesity is metabolically distinct from obesity induced through other pathways e.g. diet-induced obesity. Previous rat studies have shown that maternal undernutrition during pregnancy led to insulin hyper-secretion and obesity in offspring, but not to systemic insulin resistance. Increased muscle and liver glycogen stores indicated that glucose is taken up efficiently, reflecting an active physiological function of these energy storage tissues. It is increasingly recognised that adipose tissue plays a central role in the regulation of metabolism and pathophysiology of obesity development. The present study investigated the cell size and endocrine responsiveness of subcutaneous and visceral adipose tissue from prenatally undernourished rats. We aimed to identify whether these adipose tissue depots contribute to the altered energy metabolism observed in these offspring.

MethodsAdipocyte size was measured in both subcutaneous ScAT and retroperitoneal adipose tissue RpAT in male prenatally ad libitum fed AD or prenatally undernourished UN rat offspring. Metabolic responses were investigated in adipose tissue explants stimulated by insulin and beta3 receptor agonists ex vivo. Expression of markers of insulin signalling was determined by Western blot analyses. Data were analysed by unpaired t-test or Two Way ANOVA followed by Fisher’s PLSD post-hoc test, where appropriate.

ResultsAdipocytes in offspring of undernourished mothers were larger, even at a lower body weight, in both RpAT and ScAT. The insulin response of adipose tissue was reduced in ScAT, and statistically absent in RpAT of UN rats compared with control. This lack of RpAT insulin response was associated with reduced expression of insulin signalling pathway proteins. Adrenergic receptor-driven lipolysis was observed in both adipose depots; however insulin failed to express its anti-lipolytic effect in RpAT in both, AD and UN offspring.

ConclusionsMetabolic dysregulation in offspring of undernourished mothers is mediated by increased adipocyte size and reduced insulin responsiveness in both ScAT and especially in RpAT. These functional and morphological changes in adipocytes were accompanied by impaired activity of the insulin signalling cascade highlighting the important role of different adipose tissue depots in the pathogenesis of metabolic disorders.

KeywordsSubcutaneous adipose tissue Retroperitoneal adipose tissue Insulin response Beta-adrenergic response Prenatal undernutrition AbbreviationsScATSubcutaneous adipose tissue

RpATRetroperitoneal adipose tissue

UNPrenatally undernourished

ADPrenatally adequately nourished

BRLBeta3-adrenergic receptor ligand.

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1743-7075-11-50 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Nichola Thompson, Korinna Huber contributed equally to this work.

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Author: Nichola Thompson - Korinna Huber - Mirijam Bedürftig - Kathrin Hansen - Jennifer Miles-Chan - Bernhard H Breier


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