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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.

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Dale A Redmer, Justin S Luther, John S Milne, Raymond P Aitken, Mary Lynn Johnson, Pawel P Borowicz, Magda A Borowicz, Lawrence P Reynolds and Jacqueline M Wallace

To establish the basis for altered placental development and function previously observed at late gestation, fetoplacental growth and placental vascular development were measured at three stages of gestation in a nutritional paradigm of compromised pregnancy. Singleton pregnancies to a single sire were established and thereafter adolescent ewes were offered an optimal control (C) or a high (H) dietary intake. At day 50, the H group had elevated maternal insulin and amniotic glucose, whereas mass of the fetus and placenta were unaltered. At day 90, the H group exhibited elevated maternal insulin, IGF1 and glucose; fetal weight and glucose concentrations in H were increased relative to C, but placental weight was independent of nutrition. By day 130, total placentome weight in the H group was reduced by 46% and was associated with lower fetal glucose and a 20% reduction in fetal weight. As pregnancy progressed from day 50 to 130, the parameters of vascular development in the maternal and fetal components of the placenta increased. In the fetal cotyledon, high dietary intakes were associated with impaired vascular development at day 50 and an increase in capillary number at day 90. At day 130, all vascular indices were independent of nutrition. Thus, high dietary intakes to promote rapid maternal growth influence capillary development in the fetal portion of the placenta during early to mid-pregnancy and may underlie the subsequent reduction in placental mass and hence fetal nutrient supply observed during the final third of gestation.

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Richard G Lea, Peter Wooding, Ian Stewart, Lisa T Hannah, Stephen Morton, Karen Wallace, Raymond P Aitken, John S Milne, Timothy R Regnault, Russell V Anthony and Jacqueline M Wallace

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Richard G Lea, Peter Wooding, Ian Stewart, Lisa T Hannah, Stephen Morton, Karen Wallace, Raymond P Aitken, John S Milne, Timothy R Regnault, Russell V Anthony and Jacqueline M Wallace

Overnourishing pregnant adolescent sheep promotes maternal growth but reduces placental mass, lamb birth weight and circulating progesterone. This study aimed to determine whether altered progesterone reflected transcript abundance for StAR (cholesterol transporter) and the steroidogenic enzymes (Cyp11A1, Hsd3b and Cyp17). Circulating and placental expression of ovine placental lactogen (oPL) was also investigated. Adolescent ewes with singleton pregnancies were fed high (H) or moderate (M) nutrient intake diets to restrict or support placental growth. Experiment 1: peripheral progesterone and oPL concentrations were measured in H (n=7) and M (n=6) animals across gestation (days 7–140). Experiment 2: progesterone was measured to mid- (day 81; M: n=11, H: n=13) or late gestation (day 130; M: n=21, H: n=22), placental oPL, StAR and steroidogenic enzymes were measured by qPCR and oPL protein by immunohistochemistry. Experiment 1: in H vs M animals, term placental (P<0.05), total cotyledon (P<0.01) and foetal size (P<0.05) were reduced. Circulating oPL and progesterone were reduced at mid- (P<0.001, P<0.01) and late gestation (P<0.01, P<0.05) and oPL detection was delayed (P<0.01). Experiment 2: placental oPL was not altered by nutrition. In day 81 H animals, progesterone levels were reduced (P<0.001) but not related to placental or foetal size. Moreover, placental steroidogenic enzymes were unaffected. Day 130 progesterone (P<0.001) and Cyp11A1 (P<0.05) were reduced in H animals with intrauterine growth restriction (H+IUGR). Reduced mid-gestation peripheral oPL and progesterone may reflect altered placental differentiation and/or increased hepatic clearance respectively. Restricted placental growth and reduced biosynthesis may account for reduced progesterone in day 130 H+IUGR ewes.