The role of insulin-like growth factor I in the regulation of fetal growth was investigated in two lines of mice selected for high or low concentrations of this factor in plasma. In Expt 1, females from each line were mated with males of the reciprocal line to generate fetuses of equivalent genotype. Females with low concentration of the factor in plasma exhibited the typical negative relationship between mean fetal mass and litter size (b = −0.032 ± 0.006 g per fetus, P < 0.01). However, dams of the line with high concentrations of the factor did not exhibit this relationship (b = −0.004 ± 0.006 g per fetus), despite the fact that they had 26% larger litters (P < 0.05) at a common maternal body mass. This difference in maternal constraint apparently reflects a greater capacity for nutrient transfer to the fetuses in the dams with more insulin-like growth factor I in plasma, as suggested by the absence of a relationship between mean placental mass and mean fetal mass in that line. In Expt 2, the effect of fetal genotype for insulin-like growth factor I was investigated by transferring embryos of the two lines into females of an unrelated strain. Fetuses from the line with high concentrations of the factor in plasma were heavier at term (1.51 versus 1.37 g, pooled se = 0.05 g, P < 0.05) than fetuses from the line with low concentrations in plasma. It is therefore concluded that fetal growth is influenced by both the maternal and fetal genotypes for insulin-like growth factor I, but in qualitatively different manners.
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