Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Translational Animal Science 1:Suppl 1 (2017), pp. 202-206.

doi: 10.2527/asasws.2017.0032


Copyright © 2017 American Society of Animal Science. Open access licensed.


Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) is a leading cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality. Low birth weight resulting from preterm birth and/or IUGR is an underlying factor in 60–80% of perinatal death worldwide, and is particularly common in developing countries (UNICEF, 2008). Furthermore, studies have linked IUGR and the associated fetal malnutrition to increased incidence of metabolic syndrome in adult life (Barker et al., 1993; Godfrey and Barker, 2000). The “thrifty phenotype hypothesis” developed by David Barker (Hales et al., 1991) states that IUGR-associated fetal malnutrition forces the fetus to spare nutrients by altering tissue-specific metabolism in order to survive. In utero, adaptive changes disproportionately impact skeletal muscle development, growth, and metabolism (Yates et al., 2016). Skeletal muscle is responsible for the majority of insulin-stimulated glucose utilization, and adaptive restriction in muscle growth capacity helps to spare glucose in the IUGR fetus but result in lifelong deficits in muscle mass and metabolic homeostasis (Brown and Hay, 2016). Skeletal muscle growth requires proliferation, differentiation, and fusion of myoblast into new muscle fibers early in gestation and fusion with existing fibers in the third trimester of pregnancy (Zhu et al., 2004). This process can be impaired by inflammation from resident macrophages within skeletal muscle. Classically activated M1 macrophages are pro-inflammatory but can polarize to an anti-inflammatory M2 phenotype that inhibits cytokine production and stimulates tissue repair by producing growth factors (Mantovani et al., 2004; Kharraz et al., 2013). The acute effects of inflammatory factors on myoblast function have been investigated in vitro (Frost et al., 1997; Guttridge et al., 2000), and we postulate that inflammatory stress may have similar effects on fetal myoblasts in utero. Impaired myoblast function and the resulting decrease in muscle growth capacity affect long-term metabolic health. Therefore, the objective of this study was to determine the effect of sustained maternal inflammation at mid-gestation on fetal mortality, muscle growth, and metabolic parameters at term.