Gonadal transcriptome alterations in response to dietary energy intake: sensing the reproductive environment

PLoS One. 2009;4(1):e4146. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004146. Epub 2009 Jan 7.


Reproductive capacity and nutritional input are tightly linked and animals' specific responses to alterations in their physical environment and food availability are crucial to ensuring sustainability of that species. We have assessed how alterations in dietary energy intake (both reductions and excess), as well as in food availability, via intermittent fasting (IF), affect the gonadal transcriptome of both male and female rats. Starting at four months of age, male and female rats were subjected to a 20% or 40% caloric restriction (CR) dietary regime, every other day feeding (IF) or a high fat-high glucose (HFG) diet for six months. The transcriptional activity of the gonadal response to these variations in dietary energy intake was assessed at the individual gene level as well as at the parametric functional level. At the individual gene level, the females showed a higher degree of coherency in gonadal gene alterations to CR than the males. The gonadal transcriptional and hormonal response to IF was also significantly different between the male and female rats. The number of genes significantly regulated by IF in male animals was almost 5 times greater than in the females. These IF males also showed the highest testosterone to estrogen ratio in their plasma. Our data show that at the level of gonadal gene responses, the male rats on the IF regime adapt to their environment in a manner that is expected to increase the probability of eventual fertilization of females that the males predict are likely to be sub-fertile due to their perception of a food deficient environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Energy Intake / genetics*
  • Energy Intake / physiology
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Gonads / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reproduction / genetics*
  • Reproduction / physiology