We previously reported that a maternal high fat (HF) diet resulted in adult offspring with increased adiposity and hyperleptinemia. As leptin has an inhibitory effect on adrenal steroidogenesis and a stimulatory effect on epinephrine synthesis, we hypothesized that key adrenal steroidogenic and catecholaminergic enzymes would be altered in these offspring. Wistar rats were randomized into three groups at weaning: (1) control dams fed a standard control chow diet from weaning and throughout pregnancy and lactation (CON), (2) dams fed a HF diet from weaning and throughout pregnancy and lactation (MHF) and (3) dams fed standard control chow diet throughout life until conception, then fed a HF diet in pregnancy and lactation (PLHF). Dams were mated at day 100 (P100). After birth at P22 (weaning), male offspring were fed a standard control chow (con) or high fat (hf) diet. At P160, plasma samples and adrenal tissues were collected. Postweaning hf diet significantly elevated plasma corticosterone concentrations in PLHF-hf offspring compared to PLHF-con. MHF nutrition increased adrenal adrenocorticotrophic hormone receptor (ACTH-R) mRNA levels compared to CON-con. 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3βHSD) mRNA levels were decreased in MHF compared to PLHF offspring. Phenylethanolamine
N-methyltransferase (PNMT) mRNA levels were increased in MHF-hf offspring compared to MHF-con. Plasma homocysteine (HCY) concentrations were significantly elevated in CON-hf and MHF-hf offspring compared to chow-fed offspring, associated with elevated intakes of methionine and reduced intakes of pyridoxine. Immunoreactive leptin receptor (ObRb) and PNMT were colocalized in medullary chromaffin cells. This study suggests that a postweaning HF diet in offspring induced changes in adrenal gene expression levels that are dependent upon the level of maternal nutrition.