Gestational protein restriction reduces expression of Hsd17b2 in rat placental labyrinth

Biol Reprod. 2012 Sep 21;87(3):68. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.112.100479. Print 2012 Sep.


Accumulating evidence strongly supports the premise that testosterone may be a key player in fetal programming on hypertension. Studies have shown that gestational protein restriction doubles the plasma testosterone levels in pregnant rats. In this study, we hypothesized that elevated testosterone levels in response to gestational protein restriction were caused by enhanced expression of steroidogenic enzymes or impaired expression of Hsd17b2, a known testosterone inactivator that converts testosterone to androstenedione in placenta. Pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were fed normal (20% protein, control; n = 10) or a low-protein diet (6% protein, PR; n = 10) from Day 1 of pregnancy until killed at Days 14, 18, or 21. Junctional (JZ) and labyrinth (LZ) zones of placenta were collected for expression assay on steroidogenic genes (Cyp11a1, Hsd3b1, Cyp17a1, Hsd17b2, and Srd5a1) by real-time PCR. The main findings include the following: 1) expressions of Cyp11a1, Hsd3b1, and Cyp17a1 in JZ were not affected by diet but were affected by day of pregnancy; 2) expression of Hsd17b2 in both female and male JZs was remarkably increased by PR at Days 18 and 21 of pregnancy; 3) expressions of Hsd17b2 were reduced by PR in both female and male LZ at Day 18 of pregnancy and in female LZ at Day 21 of pregnancy; and 4) expression of Srd5a1in LZ was not affected by day of pregnancy, gender, or diet. These results indicate that in response to gestational protein restriction, Hsd17b2 may be a key regulator of testosterone levels and associated activities in placental zones, apparently in a paradoxical manner.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 17-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / genetics*
  • 17-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Dietary Proteins / pharmacology
  • Down-Regulation / drug effects
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic* / drug effects
  • Male
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / drug effects
  • Models, Biological
  • Placenta / enzymology
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Placenta / ultrastructure
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / genetics*
  • Pregnancy Complications / metabolism
  • Protein Deficiency / genetics*
  • Protein Deficiency / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Dietary Proteins
  • 17-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • Hsd17b2 protein, rat