Maternofetal inflammation induced for 2 wk in late gestation reduced birth weight and impaired neonatal growth and skeletal muscle glucose metabolism in lambs

Robert J. Posont, Caitlin N. Cadaret, Joslyn K. Beard, Rebecca M. Swanson, Rachel L. Gibbs, Eileen S. Marks-Nelson, Jessica L. Petersen, Dustin T. Yates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Intrauterine stress impairs growth and metabolism in the fetus and offspring. We recently found that sustained maternofetal inflammation resulted in intrauterine growth-restricted (MI-IUGR) fetuses with asymmetric body composition, impaired muscle glucose metabolism, and β-cell dysfunction near term. These fetuses also exhibited heightened inflammatory tone, which we postulated was a fetal programming mechanism for the IUGR phenotype. Thus, the objective of this study was to determine whether poor growth and metabolism persisted in MI-IUGR lambs after birth. Polypay ewes received serial lipopolysaccharide or saline injections in the first 2 wk of the third trimester of pregnancy to produce MI-IUGR (n = 13) and control (n = 12) lambs, respectively. Lambs were catheterized at 25 d of age. β-Cell function was assessed at 29 d, hindlimb glucose metabolism at 30 d, and daily blood parameters from day 26 to 31. Glucose metabolism was also assessed in flexor digitorum superficialis (FDS) muscle isolated at necropsy on day 31. Asymmetric body composition persisted in MI-IUGR neonates, as these lambs were lighter (P < 0.05) than controls at birth and 31 d, but body and cannon bone lengths did not differ at either age. FDS muscles from MI-IUGR lambs were smaller (P < 0.05) and exhibited reduced (P < 0.05) glucose oxidation and Akt phosphorylation but similar glucose uptake compared with controls when incubated in basal or insulin-spiked media. Similarly, hindlimb glucose oxidation was reduced (P < 0.05) in MI-IUGR lambs under basal and hyperinsulinemic conditions, but hindlimb glucose utilization did not differ from controls. Circulating urea nitrogen and cholesterol were reduced (P < 0.05), and triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and glucose-to-insulin ratios were increased (P < 0.05) in MI-IUGR lambs. Glucose and insulin concentrations did not differ between groups during basal or hyperglycemic conditions. Although circulating monocyte and granulocyte concentrations were greater (P < 0.05) in MI-IUGR lambs, plasma tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) was reduced (P < 0.05). FDS muscle contained greater (P < 0.05) TNF receptor 1 (TNFR1) and IκBα protein content. These findings indicate that maternofetal inflammation in late pregnancy results in fetal programming that impairs growth capacity, muscle glucose oxidation, and lipid homeostasis in offspring. Inflammatory indicators measured in this study appear to reflect heightened cytokine sensitivity in muscle and compensatory systemic responses to it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberskab102
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2021


  • developmental origins of health and disease
  • fetal programming
  • glucose homeostasis
  • intrauterine growth restriction
  • low birth weight
  • metabolic dysfunction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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