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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Mar;296(3):E462-72. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.90740.2008. Epub 2008 Dec 16.

Maternal prenatal undernutrition alters the response of POMC neurons to energy status variation in adult male rat offspring.

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  • 1Neurosciences et Physiologie Adaptatives, Université de Lille I, Villeneuve d'Ascq, France. christophe.breton@univ-lille1.fr


Epidemiological studies suggest that maternal undernutrition predisposes the offspring to development of energy balance metabolic pathologies in adulthood. Using a model of a prenatal maternal 70% food-restricted diet (FR30) in rats, we evaluated peripheral parameters involved in nutritional regulation, as well as the hypothalamic appetite-regulatory system, in nonfasted and 48-h-fasted adult offspring. Despite comparable glycemia in both groups, mild glucose intolerance, with a defect in glucose-induced insulin secretion, was observed in FR30 animals. They also exhibited hyperleptinemia, despite similar visible fat deposits. Using semiquantitative RT-PCR, we observed no basal difference of hypothalamic proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and neuropeptide Y (NPY) gene expression, but a decrease of the OB-Rb and an increase of insulin receptor mRNA levels, in FR30 animals. These animals also exhibited basal hypercorticosteronemia and a blunted increase of corticosterone in fasted compared with control animals. After fasting, FR30 animals showed no marked reduction of POMC mRNA levels or intensity of beta-endorphin-immunoreactive fiber projections. By contrast, NPY gene expression and immunoreactive fiber intensity increased. FR30 rats also displayed subtle alterations of food intake: body weight-related food intake was higher and light-dark phase rhythm and refeeding time course were modified after fasting. At rest, in the morning, hyperinsulinemia and a striking increase in the number of c-Fos-containing cells in the arcuate nucleus were observed. About 30% of the c-Fos-expressing cells were POMC neurons. Our data suggest that maternal undernutrition differently programs the long-term appetite-regulatory system of offspring, especially the response of POMC neurons to energy status and food intake rhythm.

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