Gestational exercise protects adult male offspring from high-fat diet-induced hepatic steatosis

J Hepatol. 2016 Jan;64(1):171-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2015.08.022. Epub 2015 Aug 29.


Background & aims: Mounting evidence indicates that maternal exercise confers protection to adult offspring against various diseases. Here we hypothesized that maternal exercise during gestation would reduce high-fat diet (HFD)-induced hepatic steatosis in adult rat offspring.

Methods: Following conception, pregnant dams were divided into either voluntary wheel running exercise (GE) or wheel-locked sedentary (GS) groups throughout gestation (days 4-21). Post-weaning, offspring received either normal chow diet (CD; 10% fat, 70% carbohydrate, 20% protein) or HFD (45% fat, 35% carbohydrate, and 20% protein) until sacrificed at 4- or 8-months of age.

Results: GE did not affect offspring birth weight or litter size. HFD feeding in offspring increased weight gain, body fat percentage, and glucose tolerance test area under the curve (GTT-AUC). Male offspring from GE dams had reduced body fat percentage across all ages (p<0.05). In addition, 8-month male offspring from GE dams were protected against HFD-induced hepatic steatosis, which was associated with increased markers of hepatic mitochondrial biogenesis (PGC-1α and TFAM), autophagic potential (ATG12:ATG5 conjugation) and hepatic triacylglycerol secretion (MTTP).

Conclusions: The current study provides the first evidence that gestational exercise can reduce susceptibility to HFD-induced hepatic steatosis in adult male offspring.

Keywords: Fetal origins; NAFLD; Rat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / analysis
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Female
  • Male
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / prevention & control*
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma Coactivator 1-alpha
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Transcription Factors / analysis


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma Coactivator 1-alpha
  • Ppargc1a protein, rat
  • Transcription Factors
  • microsomal triglyceride transfer protein