Effect of intrauterine growth restriction on blood pressure, glucose tolerance and sympathetic nervous system activity in the rat at 3–4 months of age

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ObjectiveEpidemiological studies suggest that intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) due to maternal undernutrition during pregnancy represents a major risk factor for hypertension and diabetes in adult age. However, placental insuficiency, rather than maternal malnutrition, is the main cause of IUGR in the Western world. We therefore studied the relationship between birth weight and adult blood pressure and glucose tolerance in an established animal model of placental insufficiencyDesignIUGR was induced by uterine artery ligation in pregnant rats and the offspring were studied at 3–4 months of age.MethodsIn one subgroup of animals (n = 41, birth weight range 3.2–6.6 g) blood pressure was recorded over 72 h using telemetry and hypothalamic tissue levels of noradrenaline was measured. In another subgroup (n = 30, birth weight range 3.0–6.8 g) the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) was assessed by noradrenaline isotope dilution techniques and glucose tolerance determined by an intravenous glucose load.ResultsAdult blood pressure was independent of birth weight. Haemodynamic responses of IUGR rats to moderate sound stress was unaltered. In male rats neither SNS activity, hypothalamic noradrenaline concentrations nor glucose tolerance was associated with birth weight. In contrast, IUGR in female rats was associated with increased SNS activity, elevated fasting blood glucose as well as lower insulin and higher glucose levels in response to a glucose load.ConclusionIUGR is not linked to an elevated blood pressure at 3–4 months of age in this model. However, in female rats, IUGR is associated with increased SNS activity and impaired glucose tolerance in adult life.

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