Increased maternal nutrition alters development of the appetite-regulating network in the brain

B. S. Muhlhausler, C. L. Adam, P. A. Findlay, J. A. Duffield, I. C. McMillen

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182 Citations (Scopus)


Individuals exposed to an increased nutrient supply before birth have a high risk of becoming obese children and adults. It has been proposed that exposure of the fetus to high maternal nutrient intake results in permanent changes within the central appetite regulatory network. No studies, however, have investigated the impact of increased maternal nutrition on the appetite regulatory network in species in which this network develops before birth, as in the human. In the present study, pregnant ewes were fed a diet which provided 100% (control, n=8) or ∼160% (well-fed, n=8) of metabolizable energy requirements. Ewes were allowed to lamb spontaneously, and lambs were sacrificed at 30 days of postnatal age. All fat depots were dissected and weighed, and expression of the appetite-regulating neuropeptides and the leptin receptor (OBRb) were determined by in situ hybridization. Lambs of well-fed ewes had higher glucose (Glc) concentrations during early postnatal life (F=5.93, P<0.01) and a higher relative subcutaneous (s.c.) fat mass at 30 days of age (34.9±4.7 g/kg vs. 22.8±3.3 g/kg; P<0.05). The hypothalamic expression of proopiomelanocortin was higher in lambs of well-fed ewes (0.48±0.09 vs. 0.28±0.04, P<0.05). In lambs of overnourished mothers, but not in controls, the expression of OBRb was inversely related to total relative fat mass (r2=0.50, P=0.05, n=8), and the direct relationship between the expression of the central appetite inhibitor CART and fat mass was lost. The expression of neuropeptide Y and AGRP was inversely related to total relative fat mass (NPY, r2=0.28, P<0.05; agouti-related peptide, r2=0.39, P<0.01). These findings suggest that exposure to increased nutrition before birth alters the responses of the central appetite regulatory system to signals of increased adiposity after birth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E556-E565
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Jun 2006


  • Energy balance
  • Nutrition
  • Obesity
  • Programming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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