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Reproduction. 2004 Oct;128(4):443-54.

Number of conceptuses in utero affects porcine fetal muscle development.

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Swine Reproduction-Development Program, Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada.


Unmodified, third parity, control sows (CTR; n = 30) or sows subjected to unilateral oviduct ligation before breeding (LIG; n = 30), were slaughtered at either day 30 or day 90 of gestation and used to determine the effects of numbers of conceptuses in utero on prenatal, and particularly muscle fibre, development. Ovulation rate, number of conceptuses in utero, placental and fetal size, and (day 90 sows) fetal organ and semitendinosus muscle development were recorded. Tubal ligation reduced (P < 0.05) the number of viable embryos at day 30 and fetuses at day 90. Placental weight at day 30 and day 90, and fetal weight at day 90, were lower (P < 0.05) in CTR sows. All body organs except the brain were lighter, and the brain:liver weight ratio was higher in CTR fetuses (P < 0.05), indicative of brain sparing and intrauterine growth restriction in fetuses from CTR sows. Muscle weight, muscle cross-sectional area and the total number of secondary fibres were also lower (P < 0.05) in CTR fetuses. The number of primary fibres, the secondary:primary muscle fibre ratio, and the distribution of myosin heavy chain-Ibeta, -IIa, fetal and embryonic isoforms did not differ between groups. Thus, even the relatively modest uterine crowding occurring naturally in CTR sows negatively affected placental and fetal development and the number of secondary muscle fibres. Consequences of more extreme crowding in utero on fetal and postnatal development, resulting from changing patterns of early embryonic survival, merit further investigation.

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