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Clare L. Adam and T. Atkinson

Summary. Four non-lactating red deer hinds kept in natural light were each given orally 5 mg melatonin daily in the afternoon from 1 June to 5 October. The time difference between melatonin administration and sunset was 5·5–6 h until the end of August, thereafter gradually decreasing to 3·5 h. Onset of oestrous cyclicity occurred in late August and early September, 2–8 weeks in advance of control hinds. A stag given 10 mg melatonin daily shed the antler velvet on 18 July, 4 weeks earlier than untreated stags, and started rutting behaviour in July—August, 2 months before the usual time.

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Jacqueline M Wallace, John S Milne, Clare L Adam and Raymond P Aitken

The influence of maternal obesity during oocyte development and its putative interaction with nutrient reserves at conception on pregnancy outcome were examined in an adolescent sheep model. Donor ewes were nutritionally managed to achieve contrasting adiposity (control (CD)/obese (ObD)) for 6 weeks prior to superovulation and inseminated by a non-obese sire. Morulae from 6 CD and 7 ObD were transferred in singleton into adolescent recipients of identical age but differing adiposity, classified as relatively fat or thin respectively. Thereafter, all were overnourished to promote rapid growth/adiposity (2 × 2 design, 13/14 pregnancies/group). A fifth recipient group of intermediate adiposity received embryos from another 5 CD, was offered a moderate intake to maintain adiposity throughout gestation and acted as controls for normal pregnancy outcome (optimally treated control (OTC), 19 pregnancies). Donor obesity did not influence ovulation, fertilisation or recovery rates or impact embryo morphology. Gestation length and colostrum yield were unaffected by donor or recipient adiposity and were reduced relative to OTC. Total fetal cotyledon and lamb birth weights were independent of initial donor adiposity but reduced in relatively thin vs relatively fat recipients and lower than those in the OTC group. In spite of high placental efficiency, the incidence of fetal growth restriction was greatest in the thin recipients. Thus, maternal adiposity at conception, but not pre-conception maternal obesity, modestly influences the feto-placental growth trajectory, whereas comparison with the OTC indicates that high gestational intakes to promote rapid maternal growth remain the dominant negative influence on pregnancy outcome in young adolescents. These findings inform dietary advice for pregnant adolescent girls.

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Jacqueline M Wallace, John S Milne, Raymond P Aitken, Graham W Horgan and Clare L Adam

Low birthweight is a risk factor for later adverse health. Here the impact of placentally mediated prenatal growth restriction followed by postnatal nutrient abundance on growth, glucose metabolism and body composition was assessed in both sexes at key stages from birth to mid-adult life. Singleton-bearing adolescent dams were fed control or high nutrient intakes to induce normal or growth-restricted pregnancies respectively. Restricted lambs had ~40% reduced birthweight. Fractional growth rates were higher in restricted lambs of both sexes predominantly during suckling/juvenile phases. Thereafter, rates and patterns of growth differed by sex. Absolute catch-up was not achieved and restricted offspring had modestly reduced weight and stature at mid-adulthood necropsy (~109 weeks). Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry revealed lower bone mineral density in restricted vs normal lambs at 11, 41, 64 and 107 weeks, with males > females from 41 weeks onwards. Body fat percentage was higher in females vs males throughout, in restricted vs normal lambs at weaning (both sexes) and in restricted vs normal females at mid-adulthood. Insulin secretion after glucose challenge was greater in restricted vs normal of both sexes at 7 weeks and in restricted males at 32 weeks. In both sexes, fasting glucose concentrations were greater in restricted offspring across the life course, while glucose area under the curve after challenge was higher in restricted offspring at 32, 60, 85 and 106 weeks, indicative of persistent glucose intolerance. Therefore, prenatal growth restriction has negative consequences for body composition and metabolism throughout the life course with the effects modulated by sex differences in postnatal growth rates, fat deposition and bone mass accrual.