Effect of food restriction and leptin supplementation on fetal programming in mice

Endocrinology. 2012 Sep;153(9):4556-67. doi: 10.1210/en.2012-1119. Epub 2012 Jul 9.


Metabolic disease is a significant global health and economic problem. In a phenomenon referred to as fetal programming, offspring of underweight or overweight mothers have an increased incidence of adulthood obesity and metabolic disease. Undernourished individuals have decreased levels of leptin, a regulator of energy balance, whereas obese people develop hyperleptinemia and leptin resistance. We hypothesize that alterations in circulating leptin during pregnancy contribute to programming events caused by maternal nutritional status. To test this hypothesis, pregnant mice were randomly placed in one of three treatment groups: ad libitum feed plus saline injection (control, n = 5), 50% food restriction plus saline injection (restricted, n = 4), or 50% food restriction plus 1 mg/kg · d leptin injection (restricted, leptin treated, n = 4). Mice were treated from 1.5 to 11.5 d after conception and then returned to ad libitum feeding until weaning. At 19 wk after weaning, offspring were placed on a 45% fat diet and then followed up until 26 wk after weaning, at which time they were killed, and samples were collected for further analysis. Our results demonstrate that males are more negatively impacted by high-fat diet than females, regardless of maternal treatment. We provide evidence that differential response to leptin may mediate the sexual dimorphism observed in fetal programming in which male offspring are more affected by maternal undernutrition and female offspring by maternal overnutrition. We show that female offspring born to food-restricted, leptin-supplemented mothers are obese and insulin resistant. This may mimic fetal programming events seen in offspring of overweight women.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / drug effects*
  • Food Deprivation / physiology*
  • Leptin / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Pregnancy


  • Leptin