Maternal Undernutrition Significantly Impacts Ovarian Follicle Number and Increases Ovarian Oxidative Stress in Adult Rat Offspring
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BACKGROUND: We have shown recently that maternal undernutrition (UN) advanced female pubertal onset in a manner that is dependent upon the timing of UN. The long-term consequence of this accelerated puberty on ovarian function is unknown. Recent findings suggest that oxidative stress may be one mechanism whereby early life events impact on later physiological functioning. Therefore, using an established rodent model of maternal UN at critical windows of development, we examined maternal UN-induced changes in offspring ovarian function and determined whether these changes were underpinned by ovarian oxidative stress. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Our study is the first to show that maternal UN significantly reduced primordial and secondary follicle number in offspring in a manner that was dependent upon the timing of maternal UN. Specifically, a reduction in these early stage follicles was observed in offspring born to mothers undernourished throughout both pregnancy and lactation. Additionally, antral follicle number was reduced in offspring born to all mothers that were UN regardless of whether the period of UN was restricted to pregnancy or lactation or both. These reductions were associated with decreased mRNA levels of genes critical for follicle maturation and ovulation. Increased ovarian protein carbonyls were observed in offspring born to mothers UN during pregnancy and/or lactation and this was associated with peroxiredoxin 3 hyperoxidation and reduced mRNA levels; suggesting compromised antioxidant defence. This was not observed in offspring of mothers UN during lactation alone. CONCLUSIONS: We propose that maternal UN, particularly at a time-point that includes pregnancy, results in reduced offspring ovarian follicle numbers and mRNA levels of regulatory genes and may be mediated by increased ovarian oxidative stress coupled with a decreased ability to repair the resultant oxidative damage. Together these data are suggestive of maternal UN potentially contributing to premature ovarian ageing in offspring.
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