Background: Ethanol consumption during pregnancy can lead to a range of adverse developmental outcomes in children, termed fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Central nervous system injury is a debilitating and widely studied manifestation of chronic prenatal ethanol exposure (CPEE). However, CPEE can also cause structural and functional deficits in metabolic pathways in offspring.
Objectives and methods: This study tested the hypothesis that CPEE increases whole-body adiposity and disrupts pancreatic structure in guinea pig offspring. Pregnant guinea pigs received ethanol (4 g kg(-1) maternal body weight per day) or isocaloric-sucrose/pair-feeding (control) for 5 days per week throughout gestation.
Results: Male and female CPEE offspring demonstrated growth restriction at birth, followed by a rapid period of catch-up growth before weaning (postnatal day (PD) 1-7). Whole-body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in young adult offspring (PD100-140) revealed increased visceral and subcutaneous adiposity produced by CPEE. At the time of killing (PD150-200), CPEE offspring also had increased pancreatic adipocyte area and decreased β-cell insulin-like immunopositive area, suggesting reduced insulin production and/or secretion from pancreatic islets.
Conclusion: CPEE causes increased adiposity and pancreatic dysmorphology in offspring, which may signify increased risk for the development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes mellitus.