Developmental programming: Impact of excess prenatal testosterone on intrauterine fetal endocrine milieu and growth in sheep

A Veiga-Lopez, Teresa Steckler, David Abbott, Kathleen Welch, Puliyur S MohanKumar, David James Phillips, Kent Refsal, Vasantha Padmanabhan

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Prenatal testosterone excess in sheep leads to reproductive and metabolic disruptions that mimic those seen in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Comparison of prenatal testosterone-treated sheep with prenatal dihydrotestosterone-treated sheep suggests facilitation of defects by androgenic as well as androgen-independent effects of testosterone. We hypothesized that the disruptive impact of prenatal testosterone on adult pathology may partially depend on its conversion to estrogen and consequent changes in maternal and fetal endocrine environments. Pregnant Suffolk sheep were administered either cottonseed oil (control) or testosterone propionate in cottonseed oil (100 mg, i.m. twice weekly), from Day 30 to Day 90 of gestation (term is 147 d). Maternal (uterine) and fetal (umbilical) arterial samples were collected at Days 64-66, 87-90, and 139-140 (range; referred to as D65, D90, and D140, respectively) of gestation. Concentrations of gonadal and metabolic hormones, as well as differentiation factors, were measured using liquid chromatography/mass spectrometer, radioimmunoassay, or ELISA. Findings indicate that testosterone treatment produced maternal and fetal testosterone levels comparable to adult males and D65 control male fetuses, respectively. Testosterone treatment increased fetal estradiol and estrone levels during the treatment period in both sexes, supportive of placental aromatization of testosterone. These steroidal changes were followed by a reduction in maternal estradiol levels at term, a reduction in activin A availability, and induction of intrauterine growth restriction in D140 female fetuses. Overall, our findings provide the first direct evidence in support of the potential for both androgenic as well as estrogenic contribution in the development of adult reproductive and metabolic pathology in prenatal testosterone-treated sheep.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87 - 96
Number of pages10
JournalBiology of Reproduction
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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