Caffeine is a definite factor of intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR). Previously, we have confirmed that prenatal caffeine ingestion inhibits the development of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, and alters the glucose and lipid metabolism in IUGR fetal rats. In this study, we aimed to verify a programmed alteration of neuroendocrine metabolism in prenatal caffeine ingested-offspring rats. The results showed that prenatal caffeine (120 mg/kg.day) ingestion caused low body weight and high IUGR rate of pups; the concentrations of blood adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and corticosterone in caffeine group were significantly increased in the early postnatal period followed by falling in late stage; the level of blood glucose was unchanged, while blood total cholesterol (TCH) and triglyceride (TG) were markedly enhanced in adult. After chronic stress, the concentrations and the gain rates of blood ACTH and corticosterone were obviously increased, meanwhile, the blood glucose increased while the TCH and TG decreased in caffeine group. Further, the hippocampal mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) expression in caffeine group was initially decreased and subsequently increased after birth. After chronic stress, the 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-1, glucocorticoid receptor (GR), MR as well as the MR/GR ratio were all significantly decreased. These results suggested that prenatal caffeine ingestion induced the dysfunction of HPA axis and associated neuroendocrine metabolic programmed alteration in IUGR offspring rats, which might be related with the functional injury of hippocampus. These observations provide a valuable experimental basis for explaining the susceptibility of IUGR offspring to metabolic syndrome and associated diseases.
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