Circulating leptin concentrations are positively related to leptin messenger RNA expression in the adipose tissue of fetal sheep in the pregnant ewe fed at or below maintenance energy requirements during late gestation.Biol Reprod 2002; 67(3):911-6BR
We have investigated the effects of maternal undernutrition during late gestation on maternal and fetal plasma concentrations of leptin and on leptin gene expression in fetal perirenal adipose tissue. Pregnant ewes were randomly assigned at 115 days of gestation (term = 147 +/- 3 days [mean +/- SEM]) to either a control group (n = 13) or an undernourished group (n = 16) that received approximately 50% of the control diet until 144-147 days of gestation. Maternal plasma glucose, but not leptin, concentrations were lower in the undernourished ewes. A significant correlation was found, however, between mean maternal plasma leptin (y) and glucose (x) concentrations (y = 2.9x - 2.4; r = 0.51, P < 0.02) when the control and undernourished groups were combined. Fetal plasma glucose and insulin, but not fetal leptin, concentrations were lower in the undernourished ewes, and no correlation was found between mean fetal leptin concentrations and either mean fetal glucose or insulin concentrations. A positive relationship, however, was found between mean fetal (y) and maternal (x) plasma leptin concentrations (y = 0.18x + 0.45; r = 0.66, P < 0.003). No significant difference was found in the relative abundance of leptin mRNA in fetal perirenal fat between the undernourished (0.60 +/- 0.09, n = 10) and control (0.70 +/- 0.08, n = 10) groups. Fetal plasma concentrations of leptin (y) and leptin mRNA levels (x) in perirenal adipose tissue were significantly correlated (y = 1.5x +/- 0.3; r = 0.69, P < 0.05). In summary, the capacity of leptin to act as a signal of moderate maternal undernutrition may be limited before birth in the sheep.