Effects of maternal diet and exercise during pregnancy on glucose metabolism in skeletal muscle and fat of weanling rats

PLoS One. 2015 Apr 8;10(4):e0120980. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120980. eCollection 2015.


Obesity during pregnancy contributes to the development of metabolic disorders in offspring. Maternal exercise may limit gestational weight gain and ameliorate these programming effects. We previously showed benefits of post-weaning voluntary exercise in offspring from obese dams. Here we examined whether voluntary exercise during pregnancy influences lipid and glucose homeostasis in muscle and fat in offspring of both lean and obese dams. Female Sprague-Dawley rats were fed chow (C) or high fat (F) diet for 6 weeks before mating. Half underwent voluntary exercise (CE/FE) with a running wheel introduced 10 days prior to mating and available until the dams delivered; others remained sedentary (CS/FS). Male and female pups were killed at postnatal day (PND)19 and retroperitoneal fat and gastrocnemius muscle were collected for gene expression. Lean and obese dams achieved similar modest levels of exercise. At PND1, both male and female pups from exercised lean dams were significantly lighter (CE versus CS), with no effect in those from obese dams. At PND19, maternal obesity significantly increased offspring body weight and adiposity, with no effect of maternal exercise. Exercise significantly reduced insulin concentrations in males (CE/FE versus CS/FS), with reduced glucose in male FE pups. In males, maternal obesity significantly decreased muscle myogenic differentiation 1 (MYOD1) and glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4) mRNA expressions (FS vs CS); these were normalized by exercise. Maternal exercise upregulated adipose GLUT4, interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), and peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma coactivator 1 alpha (PGC1α) mRNA expression in offspring of dams consuming chow. Modest voluntary exercise during pregnancy was associated with lower birth weight in pups from lean dams. Maternal exercise appeared to decrease the metabolic risk induced by maternal obesity, improving insulin/glucose metabolism, with greater effects in male than female offspring.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Hormones / blood
  • Insulin / blood
  • Male
  • Mothers*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Organ Size
  • Phenotype
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Weaning*


  • Biomarkers
  • Hormones
  • Insulin
  • Triglycerides
  • Glucose

Grant support

The work was in part funded by National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC 568728) to M.J. Morris. Mukesh Raipuria was sponsored by Government of Madhya Pradesh State, India and the Australian Centre for Perinatal Science (ACPS). Hasnah Bahari was sponsored by the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia and Universiti Putra Malaysia.