Sex-specific effects of placental restriction on components of the metabolic syndrome in young adult sheep

J. A. Owens, P. Thavaneswaran, M. J. De Blasio, I. C. McMillen, J. S. Robinson, K. L. Gatford

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Prenatal and early postnatal life experiences, reflected by size at birth and postnatal catch-up growth, contribute to the risk of developing the metabolic syndrome in adulthood, but their relative importance is unclear. Therefore, we determined the effects of restricted placental and fetal growth on components of the metabolic syndrome in young adult sheep and the relationships of the latter to size at birth and early postnatal growth. Fasting plasma metabolites, glucose tolerance (by intravenous glucose tolerance test, IVGTT), insulin secretion and sensitivity, and resting blood pressure were measured in 22 control and 20 placentally restricted (PR) 1-yr-old sheep. In male sheep, PR increased the initial rise in glucose during an IVGTT and reduced diastolic blood pressure, and small size at birth independently predicted reduced adult size, glucose tolerance, and fasting plasma insulin and insulin disposition of glucose metabolism but increased insulin disposition of circulating FFAs. Also in males, high fractional growth rates in early postnatal life independently predicted impaired early glucose clearance during an IVGTT. In female animals, PR increased insulin sensitivity of glucose metabolism and reduced fasting plasma FFAs, and thinness at birth predicted increased adult size, fasting blood glucose, and pulse pressure. In conclusion, PR and small size at birth are associated with more components of the metabolic syndrome in adult male than in adult female sheep, with few independent effects of early postnatal growth. These sex differences in the onset and extent of adverse metabolic consequences after prenatal restraint in the sheep are consistent with observations in humans.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood pressure
  • Glucose metabolism
  • Growth
  • Insulin action
  • Size at birth

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