Obesity disrupts the rhythmic profiles of maternal and fetal progesterone in rat pregnancy

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    © 2016 by the Society for the Study of Reproduction, Inc.Maternal obesity increases the risk of abnormal fetal growth, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Because steroid hormones regulate fetal growth, and both pregnancy and obesity markedly alter circadian biology, we hypothesized that maternal obesity disrupts the normal rhythmic profiles of steroid hormones in rat pregnancy. Obesity was established by cafeteria (CAF) feeding for 8 wk prior to mating and throughout pregnancy. Control (CON) animals had ad libitum access to chow. Daily profiles of plasma corticosterone, 11-dehydrocorticosterone, progesterone, and testosterone were measured at Days 15 and 21 of gestation (term = 23 days) in maternal (both days) and fetal (Day 21) plasma. CAF mothers exhibited increased adiposity relative to CON and showed fetal and placental growth restriction. There was no change, however, in total fetal or placental mass due to slightly larger litter sizes in CAF. Nocturnal declines in progesterone were observed in maternal (39% lower) and fetal (45% lower) plasma in CON animals, but these were absent in CAF animals. CAF mothers were hyperlipidemic at both days of gestation, but this effect was isolated to the dark period at Day 21. CAF maternal testosterone was slightly lower at Day 15 (8%) but increased above CON by Day 21 (16%). Despite elevated maternal testosterone, male fetal testosterone was suppressed by obesity on Day 21. Neither maternal nor fetal glucocorticoid profiles were affected by obesity. In conclusion, obesity disrupts rhythmic profiles of maternal and fetal progesterone, preventing the normal nocturnal decline. Obesity subtly changed testosterone profiles but did not alter maternal and fetal glucocorticoids.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number55
    JournalBiology of Reproduction
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016


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