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ME Symonds, A Mostyn, S Pearce, H Budge and T Stephenson

In the fetus, adipose tIssue comprises both brown and white adipocytes for which brown fat is characterised as possessing the unique uncoupling protein (UCP)1. The dual characteristics of fetal fat reflect its critical role at birth in providing lipid that is mobilised rapidly following activation of UCP1 upon cold exposure to the extra-uterine environment. A key stage in the maturation of fetal fat is the gradual rise in the abundance of UCP1. For species with a mature hypothalamic-pituitary axis at birth there is a gradual increase in the amount and activity of UCP1 during late gestation, in conjunction with an increase in the plasma concentrations of catecholamines, thyroid hormones, cortisol, leptin and prolactin. These may act individually, or in combination, to promote UCP1 expression and, following the post-partum surge in each hormone, UCP1 abundance attains maximal amounts.Adipose tIssue grows in the fetus at a much lower rate than in the postnatal period. However, its growth is under marked nutritional constraints and, in contrast to many other fetal organs that are unaffected by nutritional manipulation, fat mass can be significantly altered by changes in maternal and, therefore, fetal nutrition. Fat deposition in the fetus is enhanced during late gestation following a previous period of nutrient restriction up to mid gestation. This is accompanied by increased mRNA abundance for the receptors of IGF-I and IGF-II. In contrast, increasing maternal nutrition in late gestation results in less adipose tIssue deposition but enhanced UCP1 abundance. The pronounced nutritional sensitivity of fetal adipose tIssue to both increased and decreased maternal nutrition may explain why the consequences of an adverse nutritional environment persist into later life.

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H Budge, A Mostyn, V Wilson, A Khong, AM Walker, ME Symonds and T Stephenson

The present study determines whether maternal administration of prolactin (PRL) to dams promotes the abundance of the brown adipose tissue-specific uncoupling protein-1 (UCP1) in fetal and neonatal rat pups. Recombinant PRL (24 micro g/kg per day), or an equivalent volume of saline, were infused into dams (n=19 per group) throughout pregnancy from 12 h after mating. Interscapular brown adipose tissue was sampled either from fetuses at 19.5 days of gestation (term=21.5 days) or from neonatal rat pups at approximately 18 h after birth. The abundance of UCP1 was determined by immunoblotting on adipose tissue samples from individual pups and pooled from groups of pups. This analysis was complemented by immunocytochemistry on representative adipose tissue samples. Maternal PRL infusion resulted in a greater abundance of UCP1 in fetal rats at 19.5 days of gestation (control: 97.2+/-8.4% reference; PRL: 525.6+/-74.4% reference; P<0.001) and in neonates 18 h after birth. In contrast, the abundance of the outer mitochondrial membrane protein voltage-dependent anion channel was unaffected by PRL. Neonatal adipose tissue sampled from pups born to PRL-infused dams possessed fewer lipid droplets, but more UCP1, as determined by immunocytochemistry. Fetal, but not maternal, plasma leptin concentrations were also increased by maternal PRL administration. In conclusion, as rats are altricial, and the potential thermogenic activity of brown adipose tissue develops over the first few days of postnatal life, these changes prior to, and at the time of, birth implicate PRL in fetal and neonatal adipose tissue maturation.

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A Mostyn, S Pearce, H Budge, M Elmes, AJ Forhead, AL Fowden, T Stephenson and ME Symonds

The present study examined the extent to which the late gestation rise in fetal plasma cortisol influenced adipose tIssue development in the fetus. The effect of cortisol on the abundance of adipose tIssue mitochondrial proteins on both the inner (i.e. uncoupling protein (UCP)1) and outer (i.e. voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC)) mitochondrial membrane, together with the long and short forms of the prolactin receptor (PRLR) protein and leptin mRNA was determined. Perirenal adipose tIssue was sampled from ovine fetuses to which (i) cortisol (2-3 mg/day for 5 days) or saline was infused up to 127-130 days of gestation, and (ii) adrenalectomised and intact controls at between 142 and 145 days of gestation (term=148 days). UCP1 protein abundance was significantly lower in adrenalectomised fetuses compared with age-matched controls, and UCP1 was increased by cortisol infusion and with gestational age. Adrenalectomy reduced the concentration of the long form of PRLR, although this effect was only significant for the highest molecular weight isoform. In contrast, neither the short form of PRLR, VDAC protein abundance or leptin mRNA expression was significantly affected by gestational age or cortisol status. Fetal plasma triiodothyronine concentrations were increased by cortisol and with gestational age, an affect abolished by adrenalectomy. When all treatment groups were combined, both plasma cortisol and triiodothyronine concentrations were positively correlated with UCP1 protein abundance. In conclusion, an intact adrenal is necessary for the late gestation rise in UCP1 protein abundance but cortisol does not appear to have a major stimulatory role in promoting leptin expression in fetal adipose tIssue. It remains to be established whether effects on UCP1 protein are directly regulated by cortisol alone or mediated by other anabolic fetal hormones such as triiodothyronine.

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M G Gnanalingham, A Mostyn, D S Gardner, T Stephenson and M E Symonds

Glucocorticoid action has a major role in regulating fetal and postnatal lung development, although its impact on mitochondrial development is less well understood. Critically, the consequences of any change in glucocorticoid action and mitochondrial function in early life may not be limited to the postnatal period, but may extend into later life. This paper focuses on more recent findings on the impact of ontogeny, fetal cortisol status, maternal nutrient restriction and postnatal leptin administration on mitochondrial uncoupling protein (UCP)-2, glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and 11 β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11βHSD1) isoform abundance in the lung. For example, in sheep, GR and 11βHSD1 mRNA are maximal at 140 days’ gestation (term ~147 days), while UCP2 mRNA peaks at 1 day after birth and then decreases with advancing age. In the fetus, chronic umbilical cord compression enhances the abundance of these genes, an outcome that can also be produced after birth following chronic, but not acute, leptin administration. Irrespective of the timing of maternal nutrient restriction in pregnancy, glucocorticoid sensitivity and UCP2 abundance are both upregulated in the lungs of the resulting offspring. In conclusion, prenatal and postnatal endocrine challenges have distinct effects on mitochondrial development in the lung resulting from changes in glucocorticoid action, which can persist into later life. As a consequence, changes in glucocorticoid sensitivity and mitochondrial protein abundance have the potential to be used to identify those at greatest risk of developing later lung disease.

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S Pearce, H Budge, A Mostyn, E Genever, R Webb, P Ingleton, A M Walker, M E Symonds and T Stephenson

A primary role of the prolactin receptor (PRLR) during fetal and postnatal development has been suggested to be the regulation of uncoupling protein (UCP) expression. We, therefore, determined whether: (1) the rate of loss of UCP1 from brown adipose tissue after birth was paralleled by the disappearance of PRLR; and (2) administration of either pituitary extract prolactin (PRL) containing a mixture of posttranslationally modified forms or its pseudophosphorylated form (S179D PRL) improved thermoregulation and UCP1 function over the first week of neonatal life. PRLR abundance was greatest in adipose tissue 6 h after birth before declining up to 30 days of age, a trend mirrored by first a gain and then a loss of UCP1. In contrast, in the liver – which does not possess UCPs –a postnatal decline in PRLR was not observed. Administration of PRL resulted in an acute increase in colonic temperature in conjunction with increased plasma concentrations of non-esterified fatty acids and, as a result, the normal postnatal decline in body temperature was delayed. S179D PRL at lower concentrations resulted in a transient rise in colonic temperature at both 2 and 6 days of age. In conclusion, we have demonstrated a close relationship between the ontogeny of UCP1 and the PRLR. Exogenous PRL administration elicits a thermogenic effect suggesting an important role for the PRLR in regulating UCP1 function.

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P. H. ROWE, G. A. LINCOLN, P. A. RACEY, J. LEHANE, M. J. STEPHENSON, J. C. SHENTON and T. D. GLOVER

SUMMARY

Testosterone was measured in the peripheral blood plasma of normal men by radioimmunoassay. The results were analysed to test for the possible existence of a circadian rhythm, for fluctuations superimposed on any such rhythm, and for day-to-day variations. Unequivocal evidence of a circadian rhythm was found in all but one of the subjects studied and the cycle appeared to be accompanied by a series of fluctuations of lower amplitude lasting for 1–2 h. Samples taken from the same subjects on consecutive days showed marked variation between days, but no regular cyclic pattern. The possible existence of such a cycle is not, however, eliminated. On the basis of all the data obtained a regime is suggested for the collection of blood samples from individuals whose androgenic status is to be assessed.

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M G Gnanalingham, A Mostyn, J Wang, R Webb, D H Keisler, N Raver, M C Alves-Guerra, C Pecqueur, B Miroux, T Stephenson and M E Symonds

Many tissues undergo a rapid transition after birth, accompanied by dramatic changes in mitochondrial protein function. In particular, uncoupling protein (UCP) abundance increases at birth in the lung and adipose tissue, to then gradually decline, an adaptation that is important in enabling normal tissue function. Leptin potentially mediates some of these changes and is known to promote the loss of UCP1 from brown fat but its effects on UCP2 and related mitochondrial proteins (i.e. voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC) and cytochrome c) in other tissues are unknown. We therefore determined the effects of once-daily jugular venous administration of ovine recombinant leptin on mitochondrial protein abundance as determined by immunoblotting in tissues that do (i.e. the brain and pancreas) and do not (i.e. liver and skeletal muscle) express UCP2. Eight pairs of 1-day-old lambs received either 100 μg leptin or vehicle daily for 6 days, before tissue sampling on day 7. Administration of leptin diminished UCP2 abundance in the pancreas, but not the brain. Leptin administration had no affect on the abundance of VDAC or cytochrome c in any tissue examined. In leptin-administered animals, but not controls, UCP2 abundance in the pancreas was positively correlated with VDAC and cytochrome c content, and UCP2 abundance in the brain with colonic temperature. In conclusion, leptin administration to neonatal lambs causes a tissue-specific loss of UCP2 from the pancreas. These effects may be important in the regulation of neonatal tissue development and potentially for optimising metabolic control mechanisms in later life.

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D S Gardner, B W M Van Bon, J Dandrea, P J Goddard, S F May, V Wilson, T Stephenson and M E Symonds

Glucocorticoids are proposed to act as intermediary factors that transcribe the developmental programming sequelae of maternal nutrient restriction (NR). Periconceptional under-nutrition of sheep markedly activates fetal hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis activity leading to preterm birth, while transient undernutrition during late gestation in sheep programs adult HPA axis function. To date, no study has examined resting or stimulated HPA axis function in young adult offspring following a periconceptional nutritional challenge. In the present study, 20 ewes were either periconceptionally undernourished (50% metabolisable energy requirements from days 1 to 30 gestation; NR, n = 8) or fed to control levels (100% requirement; controls, n = 12) to term (147 days gestation). Ewes were blood sampled remotely at 2 and 30 days using automated blood sampling equipment. Thereafter, offspring (controls, n = 6/6 males/females; NR, n = 4/4 males/females) were reared to 1 year of age and on separate days received either an i.v. corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH; 0.5 μg/kg) and vasopressin (AVP; 0.1 μg/kg) challenge or a synthetic ACTH i.v. bolus (Synacthen; 1.25 μg/kg), and blood samples were taken (manually and remotely) at appropriate intervals for measurement of plasma ACTH and cortisol accordingly. Resting plasma cortisol, assessed remotely, was similar in ewes during undernutrition (control 18.3 ± 1.4 vs NR 23.4 ± 1.9 nmol/l) and in offspring at 4 months of age (control male 17.6 ± 2.9; control female 17.2 ± 0.4, NR male 16.5 ± 3.1, NR female 21.7 ± 4.0 nmol/l). At 12 months of age, however, resting plasma cortisol was significantly increased in NR females (control male 28.0 ± 1.5, control female 32.9 ± 9, NR male 32 ± 7, NR female 53 ± 10 nmol/l, F 5.7, P = 0.02) despite no difference in plasma ACTH concentration. There was an interaction between nutritional group and gender for both the pituitary and adrenal responses to CRH and AVP, i.e. for controls, females exhibited increased plasma ACTH or cortisol relative to males but for NR this trend was either not present or reversed. The adrenocortical response to synthetic ACTH was gender-dependent only, being greater in female offspring. Combined CRH and AVP provoked a transient hypertension and marked bradycardia in all animals, irrespective of dietary group or gender and could be effectively reproduced by an AVP bolus alone. In conclusion, the present study has shown that periconceptional undernutrition of sheep has only a minor influence on HPA axis function in their young adult offspring when considered alongside the effect of gender per se.

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M A Hyatt, G S Gopalakrishnan, J Bispham, S Gentili, I C McMillen, S M Rhind, M T Rae, C E Kyle, A N Brooks, C Jones, H Budge, D Walker, T Stephenson and M E Symonds

The liver is a major metabolic and endocrine organ of critical importance in the regulation of growth and metabolism. Its function is determined by a complex interaction of nutritionally regulated counter-regulatory hormones. The extent to which hepatic endocrine sensitivity can be programed in utero and whether the resultant adaptations persist into adulthood is unknown and was therefore the subject of this study. Young adult male sheep born to mothers that were fed either a control diet (i.e.100% of total live weight-maintenance requirements) throughout gestation or 50% of that intake (i.e. nutrient restricted (NR)) from 0 to 95 days gestation and thereafter 100% of requirements (taking into account increasing fetal mass) were entered into the study. All mothers gave birth normally at term, the singleton offspring were weaned at 16 weeks, and then reared at pasture until 3 years of age when their livers were sampled. NR offspring were of similar birth and body weights at 3 years of age when they had disproportionately smaller livers than controls. The abundance of mRNA for GH, prolactin, and IGF-II receptors, plus hepatocyte growth factor and suppressor of cytokine signaling-3 were all lower in livers of NR offspring. In contrast, the abundance of the mitochondrial protein voltage-dependent anion channel and the pro-apoptotic factor Bax were up regulated relative to controls. In conclusion, maternal nutrient restriction in early gestation results in adult offspring with smaller livers. This may be mediated by alterations in both hepatic mitogenic and apoptotic factors.