Insulin growth factor adjustment in preimplantation rabbit blastocysts and uterine tissues in response to maternal type 1 diabetes

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2012 Jul 6;358(1):96-103. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2012.03.007. Epub 2012 Mar 20.


Insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) are well-known regulators of embryonic growth and differentiation. IGF function is closely related to insulin action. IGFs are available to the preimplantation embryo through maternal blood (endocrine action), uterine secretions (paracrine action) and by the embryo itself (autocrine action). In rabbit blastocysts, embryonic IGF1 and IGF2 are specifically strong in the embryoblast (ICM). Signalling of IGFs and insulin in blastocysts follows the classical pathway with Erk1/2 and Akt kinase activation. The aim of this study was to analyse signalling of IGFs in experimental insulin dependent diabetes (exp IDD) in pregnancy, employing a diabetic rabbit model with uterine hypoinsulinemia and hyperglycaemia. Exp IDD was induced in female rabbits by alloxan treatment prior to mating. At 6 days p.c., the maternal and embryonic IGFs were quantified by RT-PCR and ELISA. In pregnant females, hepatic IGF1 expression and IGF1 serum levels were decreased while IGF1 and IGF2 were increased in endometrium. In blastocysts, IGF1 RNA and protein was approx. 7.5-fold and 2-fold higher, respectively, than in controls from normoglycemic females. In cultured control blastocysts supplemented with IGF1 or insulin in vitro for 1 or 12 h, IGF1 and insulin receptors as well as IGF1 and IGF2 were downregulated. In cultured T1D blastocysts activation of Akt and Erk1/2 was impaired with lower amounts of total Akt and Erk1/2 protein and a reduced phosphorylation capacity after IGF1 supplementation. Our data show that the IGF axis is severely altered in embryo-maternal interactions in exp IDD pregnancy. Both, the endometrium and the blastocyst produce more IGF1 and IGF2. The increased endogenous IGF1 and IGF2 expression by the blastocyst compensates for the loss of systemic insulin and IGF. However, this counterbalance does not fill the gap of the reduced insulin/IGF sensitivity, leading to a developmental delay of blastocysts in exp IDD pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alloxan
  • Animals
  • Blastocyst / cytology
  • Blastocyst / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism*
  • Endometrium / metabolism
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / biosynthesis
  • Female
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Diabetics / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / biosynthesis
  • Rabbits
  • Receptor, IGF Type 1 / biosynthesis
  • Uterus / metabolism*


  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II
  • Alloxan
  • Receptor, IGF Type 1
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases