Although maternal exercise before and during pregnancy is beneficial, the effects of exercise on microbiota changes during pregnancy are unknown. Here we tested the hypothesis that maternal exercise before and during pregnancy would positively affect glucose homeostasis, pancreatic cell function, and gut microbiota dysbiosis in high-fat diet (HFD) fed dams. Female C57BL/6 mice were fed either a HFD or a low-fat diet (LFD) for 12 weeks. The HFD mice were split into two groups for 4 weeks prior to pregnancy initiation and throughout the pregnancy: sedentary (HFD) or exercised (HFD + Ex). Food intake, body weight, body composition, and glucose and insulin tolerance were measured. At gestation day 19, blood, pancreas, gonadal visceral and subcutaneous fat, plantaris muscle, and cecum were collected for analysis. Both HFD and HFD + Ex mice had impaired glucose clearance compared to LFD mice at 15 days of gestation. No changes were found in pancreatic α- or β-cell health. HFD + Ex mice had significantly reduced visceral fat mass, serum insulin, and leptin levels and increased high-density lipoprotein levels, compared to HFD-fed mice. In contrast to our hypothesis, microbiota diversity and composition were not different among groups. The relative abundance of five bacterial phyla, such as Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Verrucomicrobia, Deferribacteres, and Actinobacteria, were not significantly altered with diet or exercise during pregnancy. Our findings suggest that maternal exercise prevents excess visceral fat accumulation, hyperinsulinemia, and hyperleptinemia associated with a HFD, but not through the alterations of gut microbiota composition or diversity during pregnancy.
Keywords: Gut microbiota; High-fat diet; Maternal exercise; Pancreatic cell function; Pregnancy.
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