Fetal Sex Modulates Developmental Response to Maternal Malnutrition
The effects of undernutrition during pregnancy on prenatal and postnatal development of the offspring were evaluated in sows with obesity/leptin resistance. Females were fed, from day 35 of pregnancy onwards, a diet fulfilling either 100% (group control, n=10) or 50% of the nutritional requirements (group underfed, n=10). In the control group, maternal body weight increased during pregnancy (P<0.05) while it decreased or remained steady in the underfed group. At days 75 and 100 of gestation, plasma triglycerides were lower but urea levels were higher in restricted than in control sows (P<0.05 for both). Assessment of the offspring indicated that the trunk diameter was always smaller in the restricted group (P<0.01 at day 50, P<0.005 at days 75 and 100 and P<0.0001 at birth) while head measurements were similar through pregnancy, although smaller in the restricted than in the control group at birth (P<0.05). Newborns from restricted sows were also lighter than offspring from control females (P<0.01) and had higher incidence of growth retardation (P<0.01). Afterwards, during lactation, early postnatal growth in restricted piglets was modulated by gender. At weaning, males from restricted sows were still lighter than their control counterparts (P<0.05), while females from control and underfed sows were similar. Thus, the current study indicates a gender-related differential effect in the growth patterns of the piglets, with females from restricted sows evidencing catch-up growth to neutralise prenatal retardation and reaching similar development than control counterparts.