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Maternal high fat diet during critical windows of development alters adrenal cortical and medullary enzyme expression in adult male rat offspring

  • K. L. Connor (a1), M. H. Vickers (a1), C. Cupido (a1), E. Sirimanne (a1) and D. M. Sloboda (a1)...


We previously reported that a maternal high fat (HF) diet resulted in adult offspring with increased adiposity and hyperleptinemia. As leptin has an inhibitory effect on adrenal steroidogenesis and a stimulatory effect on epinephrine synthesis, we hypothesized that key adrenal steroidogenic and catecholaminergic enzymes would be altered in these offspring. Wistar rats were randomized into three groups at weaning: (1) control dams fed a standard control chow diet from weaning and throughout pregnancy and lactation (CON), (2) dams fed a HF diet from weaning and throughout pregnancy and lactation (MHF) and (3) dams fed standard control chow diet throughout life until conception, then fed a HF diet in pregnancy and lactation (PLHF). Dams were mated at day 100 (P100). After birth at P22 (weaning), male offspring were fed a standard control chow (con) or high fat (hf) diet. At P160, plasma samples and adrenal tissues were collected. Postweaning hf diet significantly elevated plasma corticosterone concentrations in PLHF-hf offspring compared to PLHF-con. MHF nutrition increased adrenal adrenocorticotrophic hormone receptor (ACTH-R) mRNA levels compared to CON-con. 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3βHSD) mRNA levels were decreased in MHF compared to PLHF offspring. Phenylethanolamine N-methyltransferase (PNMT) mRNA levels were increased in MHF-hf offspring compared to MHF-con. Plasma homocysteine (HCY) concentrations were significantly elevated in CON-hf and MHF-hf offspring compared to chow-fed offspring, associated with elevated intakes of methionine and reduced intakes of pyridoxine. Immunoreactive leptin receptor (ObRb) and PNMT were colocalized in medullary chromaffin cells. This study suggests that a postweaning HF diet in offspring induced changes in adrenal gene expression levels that are dependent upon the level of maternal nutrition.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Dr D. M. Sloboda, Liggins Institute and the National Research Centre for Growth and Development, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand. (Email


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Maternal high fat diet during critical windows of development alters adrenal cortical and medullary enzyme expression in adult male rat offspring

  • K. L. Connor (a1), M. H. Vickers (a1), C. Cupido (a1), E. Sirimanne (a1) and D. M. Sloboda (a1)...


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