Malformations of hypothalamic nuclei in hyperinsulinemic offspring of rats with gestational diabetes

Dev Neurosci. 1999;21(1):58-67. doi: 10.1159/000017367.


Insulin is a potent modulator of central nervous development and is suggested to influence the differentiation and maturation of hypothalamic structures involved in the regulation of body weight and metabolism. Hyperinsulinemic offspring of mothers with impaired glucose tolerance during pregnancy (gestational diabetes, GD) have an increased risk to develop overweight and diabetes mellitus during life, while the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms are still unknown. To investigate the effects of perinatal hyperinsulinism on the organization of hypothalamic regulators of body weight and metabolism, GD was induced in rats by application of streptozotocin on the day of conception (25 mg/kg, i.p.). On the 21st day of life, offspring of GD rats were overweight (p < 0.05) and hyperinsulinemic (p < 0.01). Using computer-assisted morphometric measurements, significantly decreased mean areas of neuronal nuclei and neuronal cytoplasm within the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (PVN; p < 0.01) and the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus (VMN; p < 0.05) were observed in GD offspring. Analysis of topographically distinct parts revealed that these alterations particularly occurred in the parvocellular part of the PVN, as well as in the anterior, central, and dorsomedial part of the VMN. No morphometric alterations were found within the lateral hypothalamic area and the dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus. In the arcuate hypothalamic nucleus, the mean area of neuronal cytoplasm was decreased (p < 0.05), while the number of neurons expressing tyrosine hydroxylase was clearly elevated (p < 0.002). For astrocytes, a tendency towards an increased glia/neuron ratio was observed in the periventricular hypothalamic area. These observations suggest disturbed differentiation and organization of distinct hypothalamic nuclei and subnuclei, respectively, in hyperinsulinemic offspring of GD rats, possibly leading to dysfunctions of hypothalamic regulators of body weight and metabolism which might contribute to the lifelong increased risk to develop overweight and diabetogenic disturbances.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose
  • Body Weight
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cell Size / physiology
  • Cytoplasm / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental
  • Diabetes, Gestational / complications*
  • Female
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Hyperinsulinism / complications*
  • Hyperinsulinism / pathology*
  • Insulin / analysis
  • Insulin / blood
  • Male
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Organ Size
  • Pancreas / chemistry
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus / abnormalities*
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin