Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



0363-6119/16 Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society




Intrauterine growthrestricted sheep fetuses exhibit smaller hindlimb muscle fibers and lower proportions of insulin-sensitive Type I fibers near term. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 310: R1020–R1029, 2016. First published April 6, 2016; doi:10.1152/ajpregu.00528.2015.—Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) reduces muscle mass and insulin sensitivity in offspring. Insulin sensitivity varies among muscle fiber types, with Type I fibers being most sensitive. Differences in fibertype ratios are associated with insulin resistance in adults, and thus we hypothesized that near-term IUGR sheep fetuses exhibit reduced size and proportions of Type I fibers. Placental insufficiency-induced IUGR fetuses were 54% smaller (P < 0.05) than controls and exhibited hypoxemia and hypoglycemia, which contributed to 6.9- fold greater (P < 0.05) plasma norepinephrine and 53% lower (P < 0.05) plasma insulin concentrations. IUGR semitendinosus muscles contained less (P < 0.05) myosin heavy chain-I protein (MyHC-I) and proportionally fewer (P < 0.05) Type I and Type I/IIa fibers than controls, but MyHC-II protein concentrations, Type II fibers, and Type IIx fibers were not different. IUGR biceps femoris muscles exhibited similar albeit less dramatic differences in fiber type proportions. Type I and IIa fibers are more responsive to adrenergic and insulin regulation than Type IIx and may be more profoundly impaired by the high catecholamines and low insulin in our IUGR fetuses, leading to their proportional reduction. In both muscles, fibers of each type were uniformly smaller (P < 0.05) in IUGR fetuses than controls, which indicates that fiber hypertrophy is not dependent on type but rather on other factors such as myoblast differentiation or protein synthesis. Together, our findings show that IUGR fetal muscles develop smaller fibers and have proportionally fewer Type I fibers, which is indicative of developmental adaptations that may help explain the link between IUGR and adulthood insulin resistance