Maternal growth hormone treatment from day 35 to 80 of gestation alters nutrient partitioning in favor of uteroplacental growth in the overnourished adolescent sheep

Jacqueline Wallace, John Milne, Raymond Aitken

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Overnourishing the pregnant adolescent ewe promotes maternal tissue synthesis at the expense of placental growth and leads to a major reduction in lamb birth weight at term. Growth hormone (GH) secretion is attenuated in these overnourished dams and the maternal somatotrophic axis may play a key role in coordinating nutrient usage in the pregnant adolescent. Thus we investigated whether increasing maternal GH during the period of rapid placental proliferation alters nutrient partitioning between the maternal, placental, and fetal tissues as assessed at Day 81 of gestation. Adolescent recipient ewes were implanted with singleton embryos, derived from superovulated dams and a single sire on Day 4 postestrus. Thereafter, the ewes were offered either a high (H) or moderate intake (M) of the same complete diet. From Day 35 to 80 of gestation, ewes were either injected twice daily (s.c. at 0800 and 1800 h) with recombinant bovine GH (bGH, 0.14 mg/kg live weight/day) or remained untreated (n = 8 ewes per group). Maternal concentrations of GH, insulin, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), glucose, and non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs) were higher, and leptin secretion lower, in bGH-treated dams from both nutritional groups. Maternal body weight gain was higher in H versus M groups and was independent of bGH treatment. Treatment with bGH reduced relative perirenal and carcass fat deposition and increased carcass protein content in both H and M dams. Uteroplacental mass (uterus + placentomes + fetal membranes) averaged 1099, 1069, 1112, and 1754 g in M, H, M+GH, and H+GH groups. This significant increase in uteroplacental development in the H+GH group was associated with higher fetal kidney and liver weights and elevated fetal insulin, glucose, and lactate concentrations. Treatment with bGH also induced polyhydramnios in the H group. The transplacental glucose gradient was increased twofold in the H+GH group but placental GLUT-1 and GLUT-3 expression was unaffected. In conclusion, administration of GH during the period of rapid placental proliferation alters endocrine status and thus nutrient partitioning in the overnourished adolescent dam in favor of uteroplacental and fetal growth. It remains to be established whether these effects are due wholly to alterations in maternal metabolism or if they also reflect an effect of bGH and/or the IGF system at the level of the uteroplacenta.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1277-1285
Number of pages9
JournalBiology of Reproduction
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2004


  • female reproductive tract
  • growth hormone
  • pregnancy
  • placenta
  • placental transport
  • fetal growth
  • placental growth
  • body composition
  • IGF-II
  • endocrine status
  • factor (IGF)-I
  • insulin
  • somatotropin
  • nutrition

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