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Endocrinology. 2015 Jun;156(6):2323-37. doi: 10.1210/en.2014-2006. Epub 2015 Mar 12.

Developmental programming: exposure to testosterone excess disrupts steroidal and metabolic environment in pregnant sheep.

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Departments of Pediatrics (B.A.S., A.V.-L., V.P.) and Internal Medicine (C.F.B.) and Reproductive Sciences Program (V.P.), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109; and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (D.H.A.), University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706.


Gestational exposure to excess T leads to intrauterine growth restriction, low birth weight, and adult metabolic/reproductive disorders in female sheep. We hypothesized that as early mediators of such disruptions, gestational T disrupts steroidal and metabolic homeostasis in both the mother and fetus by both androgenic and metabolic pathways. Maternal blood samples were measured weekly for levels of insulin, glucose, and progesterone from four groups of animals: control; gestational T (twice weekly im injections of 100 mg of T propionate from d 30 to d 90 of gestation); T plus an androgen antagonist, flutamide (15 mg/kg·d oral; T-Flutamide); and T plus the insulin sensitizer, rosiglitazone (0.11 mg/kg·d oral; T-Rosi) (n = 10-12/group). On day 90 of gestation, maternal and umbilical cord samples were collected after a 48-hour fast from a subset (n = 6/group) for the measurement of steroids, free fatty acids, amino acids, and acylcarnitines. Gestational T decreased maternal progesterone levels by 36.5% (P < .05), which was prevented by flutamide showing direct androgenic mediation. Gestational T also augmented maternal insulin levels and decreased medium chained acylcarnitines, suggesting increased mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation. These changes were prevented by rosiglitazone, suggesting alterations in maternal fuel use. Gestational T-induced increases in fetal estradiol were not prevented by either cotreatment. Gestational T disrupted associations of steroids with metabolites and progesterone with acylcarnitines, which was prevented either by androgen antagonist or insulin sensitizer cotreatment. These findings suggest a future combination of these treatments might be required to prevent alteration in maternal/fetal steroidal and metabolic milieu(s).

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