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Metabolism. 1998 Jul;47(7):855-62.

Syndrome X-like alterations in adult female rats due to neonatal insulin treatment.

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  • 1Institute of Experimental Endocrinology, Humboldt University Medical School (Charité), Berlin, Germany.


Hypothalamic structures are decisively involved in the regulation of body weight and metabolism. In syndrome X, complex metabolic alterations are present, which in women are found to be associated with disturbances of reproductive function and altered androgen levels. In previous experiments in rats, it was shown that a temporary intrahypothalamic hyperinsulinism during early life predisposes to overweight and diabetogenic disturbances later in life, associated with disorganization of hypothalamic regulatory centers. To investigate the possible long-term consequences of elevated peripheral insulin levels during ontogenesis, the following experiment was performed. Newborn female Wistar rats were treated during neonatal life with daily subcutaneous injections of long-acting insulin ([IRI group] 0.3 IU on days 8 and 9 of life and 0.1 IU on days 10 and 11 of life), whereas control animals (CO) received daily NaCl injections. This temporary exposure to increased insulin levels during a critical developmental period resulted in an increased body weight gain including juvenile life and adulthood (P < .01), accompanied by hyperinsulinemia (P < .01), impaired glucose tolerance (P < .05), and increased systolic blood pressure in adulthood (P < .025). No significant alterations were detected either in cyclicity and fertility or in the levels of testosterone, androstenedione, or dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in IRI rats. Morphometric evaluation of hypothalamic nuclei showed a reduced numerical density of neurons (P < .025) and a decreased neuronal volume density (P < .025) within the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus (VMN) of the IRI rats, whereas the antagonistic lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) was morphometrically unchanged. Newborn offspring of IRI rats (F1 generation) were overweight (P < .05) and had an increased pancreatic insulin concentration (P < .02). In conclusion, perinatal hyperinsulinism seems to predispose to the later development of syndrome X-like changes in female rats, possibly due to impaired organization of hypothalamic regulators of body weight and metabolism.

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