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Journal of Animal Science Abstract - Animal Growth, Physiology, and Reproduction

Effects of low and high protein:carbohydrate ratios in the diet of pregnant gilts on maternal cortisol concentrations and the adrenocortical and sympathoadrenal reactivity in their offspring12


This article in JAS

  1. Vol. 91 No. 6, p. 2680-2692
    Received: Nov 8, 2012
    Accepted: Feb 25, 2013
    Published: November 25, 2014

    3 Corresponding author(s):

  1. W. Otten 3,
  2. E. Kanitz*,
  3. M. Tuchscherer*,
  4. M. Gräbner*,
  5. G. Nürnberg,
  6. O. Bellmann,
  7. U. Hennig§,
  8. C. Rehfeldt# and
  9. C. C. Metges§
  1. Behavioral Physiology
    Genetics and Biometry
    Research Units
    Nutritional Physiology “Oskar Kellner”
    Muscle Biology and Growth. Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN Dummerstorf), Wilhelm-Stahl-Allee 2, D-18196 Dummerstorf, Germany


Inadequate maternal nutrition during gestation may cause an adverse environment for the fetus leading to alterations of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) and sympatho-adrenomedullary (SAM) systems later in life. In the present study, we investigated the effects of diets with low and high protein:carbohydrate ratios on cortisol concentrations of pregnant gilts as well as the long-term effects on the function of the HPA and SAM axes in their offspring. Throughout gestation, 33 German Landrace gilts were fed high (HP, 30%), low (LP, 6.5%), or adequate (AP, 12.1%) protein diets, which were made isocaloric by adjusting the carbohydrate content. The salivary cortisol concentrations of the sows were measured in the course of the gestation period. The offspring were cross-fostered, and the plasma cortisol and catecholamine concentrations of the offspring were determined on postnatal d (PND) 1 and 27 and under specific challenging conditions: after weaning (PND 29) and after ACTH and insulin challenges (PND 68 and 70, respectively). Glucocorticoid receptor (GR) binding and neurotransmitter concentrations were measured in stress-related brain regions, and histological analyses of the adrenal were performed. Maternal salivary cortisol concentrations increased throughout gestation (P < 0.001) and the LP gilts had greater salivary cortisol compared with the AP and HP gilts (P < 0.05). No differences between diets were found for cortisol, corticosteroid-binding globulin, and catecholamine concentrations in plasma and for GR binding in hippocampus and hypothalamus in piglets at PND 1 and 27. However, the cortisol response to weaning was increased in LP piglets (P < 0.05), and in HP offspring the basal plasma noradrenaline concentrations were increased (P < 0.05). The cortisol response to the ACTH and the insulin challenge did not differ between diets. On PND 81, an increased adrenal medulla area was observed in LP offspring compared with the AP offspring (P < 0.05). Our results show that maternal diets with aberrant protein:carbohydrate ratios during gestation have moderate long-term effects on the function of the HPA and SAM system in the offspring, which indicates that pigs show a considerable plasticity to cope with maternal malnutrition.

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