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Toxicol Lett. 2014 Apr 7;226(1):98-105. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2014.01.023. Epub 2014 Jan 26.

Prenatal ethanol exposure enhances the susceptibility to metabolic syndrome in offspring rats by HPA axis-associated neuroendocrine metabolic programming.

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Pharmacology, Basic Medical School of Wuhan University, Wuhan 430071, China; Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan 430060, China.
Pharmacology, Basic Medical School of Wuhan University, Wuhan 430071, China.
Pharmacology, Basic Medical School of Wuhan University, Wuhan 430071, China; Hubei Provincial Key Laboratory of Developmentally Originated Disorder, Wuhan 430071, China. Electronic address:



The present study was designed to demonstrate that prenatal ethanol exposure (PEE) could enhance the susceptibility of high-fat diet-induced metabolic syndrome (MS) in adult male offspring via a hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis-associated neuroendocrine metabolic programmed mechanism.


Pregnant Wistar rats were intragastricly administrated ethanol 4 g/kg·d from gestational day 11 until term delivery. All male offspring were fed with high-fat diet after weaning, exposed to an unpredictable chronic stress at postnatal week (PW) 17 and sacrificed at PW20.


In PEE group, body weight presented a "catch-up growth" pattern, and the HPA axis exhibited a lower basal activity but an enhanced sensitivity to chronic stress, leading to increased levels of serum glucose, insulin, insulin resistant index, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, and decreased levels of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol. Furthermore, many lipid droplets and vacuolar degeneration were observed in the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and liver.


PEE induces enhanced susceptibility to MS in adult offspring fed with high-fat diet, and the underlying mechanism involves a HPA axis-associated neuroendocrine metabolic programming alteration.


High-fat diet; Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis; Intrauterine growth retardation; Metabolic syndrome; Prenatal ethanol exposure

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