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Prenatal exposure to a low-protein diet programs disordered regulation of lipid metabolism in the aging rat.


Erhuma, A., Salter, A.M., Scully, D.V., Langley-Evans, S.C . and Bennett, A.J.

American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism, 292, E1702-E1714 (2007)

The nutritional environment encountered during fetal life is strongly implicated as a determinant of lifelong metabolic capacity and risk of disease. Pregnant rats were fed a control or low-protein (LP) diet, targeted to early (LPE), mid-(LPM), or late (LPL) pregnancy, or throughout gestation (LPA). The offspring were studied at 1, 9, and 18 mo of age. All LP-exposed groups had similar plasma triglyceride, cholesterol, glucose, and insulin concentrations to those of controls at 1 and 9 mo of age, but by 18 mo there was evidence of LP-programmed hypertriglyceridemia and insulin resistance. All LP-exposed groups exhibited histological evidence of hepatic steatosis and were found to have two- to threefold more hepatic triglyceride than control animals. These phenotypic changes were accompanied by age-related changes in mRNA and protein expression of the transcription factors SREBP-1c, ChREBP, PPARγ, and PPARα and their respective downstream target genes ACC1, FAS, L-PK, and MCAD. At 9 mo of age, the LP groups exhibited suppression of the SREBP-1c-related lipogenic pathway but between 9 and 18 mo underwent a switch to increased lipogenic capacity with a lower expression of PPARγ and MCAD, consistent with reduced lipid oxidation. The findings indicate that prenatal protein restriction programs development of a metabolic syndrome-like phenotype that develops only with senescence. The data implicate altered expression of SREBP-1c and ChREBP as key mediators of the programmed phenotype, but the basis of the switch in metabolic status that occurred between 9 and 18 mo of age is, as yet, unidentified.