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Pediatr Res. 1999 Sep;46(3):339-44.

Effects of oxytocin treatment early in pregnancy on fetal growth in ad libitum-fed and food-restricted rats.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


The effects of oxytocin on fetal and placental growth and on maternal weight gain and accumulation of body fat were studied in ad libitum-fed and food-restricted (receiving 70% of the food intake of the ad libitum-fed group) pregnant rats. Further, a possible role of the IGF axis in mediating oxytocin-induced changes was assessed. Pregnant rats were injected subcutaneously once a day during gestational d 1-5 with saline or oxytocin (1 mg/kg). Ad libitum-fed oxytocin-treated pregnant rats had higher circulating levels of IGF-I, larger placentas, fetuses, and newborn pups and contained less body fat at the end of pregnancy. In food-restricted dams, oxytocin-treatment had no effect on fetal and placental growth. Additionally, food restriction attenuated the normal increase in IGF binding protein-3 protease proteolysis during pregnancy. The results show that oxytocin may affect maternal adaptations to pregnancy and stimulate fetal growth. We suggest that this effect may be mediated by increased IGF-I in ad libitum-fed animals, whereas food restriction may block this effect by resulting in low levels of circulating IGF-I and by attenuating the pregnancy-associated increase in IGF binding protein-3 protease activity and, thereby, further compromise IGF bioavailability.

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