Developmental Programming: Impact of Prenatal Testosterone Excess on Steroidal Machinery and Cell Differentiation Markers in Visceral Adipocytes of Female Sheep

Reprod Sci. 2018 Jul;25(7):1010-1023. doi: 10.1177/1933719117746767. Epub 2017 Dec 13.


Prenatal testosterone (T)-treated female sheep manifest reduced adipocyte size and peripheral insulin resistance. The small adipocyte phenotype may reflect defects in adipogenesis and its steroidal machinery. To test whether prenatal T treatment from gestational days 30 to 90 alters the visceral adipose tissue (VAT) steroidal machinery and reduces adipocyte differentiation, we examined expression of the steroidogenic enzymes, steroid receptors, and adipocyte differentiation markers at fetal day 90 and postnatal ages 10 and 21 months. Because gestational T treatment increases fetal T and maternal insulin, the contributions of these were assessed by androgen receptor antagonist or insulin sensitizer cotreatment, either separately (at fetal day 90 and 21 months of age time points) or together (10 months of age). The effects on adipogenesis were assessed in the VAT-derived mesenchymal stem cells (AT-MSCs) from pre- and postpubertal time points to evaluate the effects of pubertal steroidal changes on adipogenesis. Our results show that VAT manifests potentially a predominant estrogenic intracrine milieu (increased aromatase and estrogen receptor α) and reduced differentiation markers at fetal day 90 and postnatal 21 months of age. These changes appear to involve both androgenic and metabolic pathways. Preliminary findings suggest that prenatal T treatment reduces adipogenesis, decreases expression of differentiation, and increases expression of commitment markers at both pre- and postpubertal time points. Together, these findings suggest that (1) increased commitment of AT-MSCs to adipocyte lineage and decreased differentiation to adipocytes may underlie the small adipocyte phenotype of prenatal T-treated females and (2) excess T-induced changes in steroidal machinery in the VAT likely participate in the programming/maintenance of this defect.

Keywords: adipocytes; androgen antagonist; estrogen; insulin sensitizer; steroids; testosterone.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / drug effects*
  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Adipogenesis*
  • Androgen Receptor Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Androgens / administration & dosage
  • Androgens / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / drug effects*
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / growth & development*
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / metabolism
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Receptors, Androgen / metabolism
  • Sheep, Domestic
  • Testosterone / administration & dosage
  • Testosterone / metabolism*


  • Androgen Receptor Antagonists
  • Androgens
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Testosterone