Short-term exercise training early in life restores deficits in pancreatic β-cell mass associated with growth restriction in adult male rats

Rhianna C. Laker, Linda A Gallo, Mary E Wlodek, Andrew L. Siebel, Glenn D. Wadley, Glenn K. McConell

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Fetal growth restriction is associated with reduced pancreatic β-cell mass, contributing to impaired glucose tolerance and diabetes. Exercise training increases β -cell mass in animals with diabetes and has long-lasting metabolic benefits in rodents and humans. We studied the effect of exercise training on islet and β -cell morphology and plasma insulin and glucose, following an intraperitoneal glucose tolerance test (IPGTT) in juvenile and adult male Wistar-Kyoto rats born small. Bilateral uterine vessel ligation performed on day 18 of pregnancy resulted in Restricted offspring born small compared with shamoperated Controls and also sham-operated Reduced litter offspring that had their litter size reduced to five pups at birth. Restricted, Control, and Reduced litter offspring remained sedentary or underwent treadmill running from 5 to 9 or 20 to 24 wk of age. Early life exercise increased relative islet surface area and β -cell mass across all groups at 9 wk, partially restoring the 60-68% deficit (P < 0.05) in Restricted offspring. Remarkably, despite no further exercise training after 9 wk, β -cell mass was restored in Restricted at 24 wk, while sedentary littermates retained a 45% deficit (P < 0.05) in relative β -cell mass. Later exercise training also restored Restricted β -cell mass to Control levels. In conclusion, early life exercise training in rats born small restored β -cell mass in adulthood and may have beneficial consequences for later metabolic health and disease.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • β-cell
  • Fetal size
  • Insulin secretion

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