Aims/hypothesis: During pregnancy, maternal metabolic disease and hormonal imbalance may alter fetal beta cell development and/or proliferation, thus leading to an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes in adulthood. Although thyroid hormones play an important role in fetal endocrine pancreas development, the impact of maternal hypothyroidism on glucose homeostasis in adult offspring remains poorly understood.
Methods: We investigated this using a mouse model of hypothyroidism, induced by administration of an iodine-deficient diet supplemented with propylthiouracil during gestation.
Results: Here, we show that, when fed normal chow, adult mice born to hypothyroid mothers were more glucose-tolerant due to beta cell hyperproliferation (two- to threefold increase in Ki67-positive beta cells) and increased insulin sensitivity. However, following 8 weeks of high-fat feeding, these offspring gained 20% more body weight, became profoundly hyperinsulinaemic (with a 50% increase in fasting insulin concentration), insulin-resistant and glucose-intolerant compared with controls from euthyroid mothers. Furthermore, altered glucose metabolism was maintained in a second generation of animals.
Conclusions/interpretation: Therefore, gestational hypothyroidism induces long-term alterations in endocrine pancreas function, which may have implications for type 2 diabetes prevention in affected individuals.
Keywords: Beta cell function; Calcium imaging; Diabetes; Hypothyroidism; Pancreas.