Developmental Programming: Impact of Gestational Steroid and Metabolic Milieus on Mediators of Insulin Sensitivity in Prenatal Testosterone-Treated Female Sheep

Endocrinology. 2017 Sep 1;158(9):2783-2798. doi: 10.1210/en.2017-00460.


Prenatal testosterone (T) excess in sheep leads to peripheral insulin resistance (IR), reduced adipocyte size, and tissue-specific changes, with liver and muscle but not adipose tissue being insulin resistant. To determine the basis for the tissue-specific differences in insulin sensitivity, we assessed changes in negative (inflammation, oxidative stress, and lipotoxicity) and positive mediators (adiponectin and antioxidants) of insulin sensitivity in the liver, muscle, and adipose tissues of control and prenatal T-treated sheep. Because T excess leads to maternal hyperinsulinemia, fetal hyperandrogenism, and functional hyperandrogenism and IR in their female offspring, prenatal and postnatal interventions with antiandrogen, flutamide, and the insulin sensitizer rosiglitazone were used to parse out the contribution of androgenic and metabolic pathways in programming and maintaining these defects. Results showed that (1) peripheral IR in prenatal T-treated female sheep is related to increases in triglycerides and 3-nitrotyrosine, which appear to override the increase in high-molecular-weight adiponectin; (2) liver IR is a function of the increase in oxidative stress (3-nitrotyrosine) and lipotoxicity; (3) muscle IR is related to lipotoxicity; and (4) the insulin-sensitive status of visceral adipose tissue appears to be a function of the increase in antioxidants that likely overrides the increase in proinflammatory cytokines, macrophages, and oxidative stress. Prenatal and postnatal intervention with either antiandrogen or insulin sensitizer had partial effects in preventing or ameliorating the prenatal T-induced changes in mediators of insulin sensitivity, suggesting that both pathways are critical for the programming and maintenance of the prenatal T-induced changes and point to potential involvement of estrogenic pathways.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adiponectin / genetics
  • Adiponectin / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Embryonic Development / drug effects*
  • Embryonic Development / genetics
  • Female
  • Insulin Resistance* / genetics
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / genetics
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / metabolism*
  • Sheep
  • Testosterone / pharmacology*


  • Adiponectin
  • Testosterone