Maternal exercise in rats upregulates the placental IGF-system with diet and sex-specific responses: minimal effects in mothers born growth restricted Academic Article uri icon


  • KEY POINTS:The placental insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system is critical for normal fetoplacental growth, which is dysregulated following several pregnancy perturbations including uteroplacental insufficiency and maternal obesity. We report that the IGF system was altered in placentae of mothers born growth restricted compared to normal birth weight mothers, with maternal diet- and fetal sex-specific responses. Additionally, we report increased body weight and plasma IGF1 concentrations in fetuses from chow-fed normal birth weight mothers that exercised prior to and continued during pregnancy compared to sedentary mothers. Exercise initiated during pregnancy, on the other hand, resulted in placental morphological alterations and increased IGF1 and IGF1R protein expression, which may in part be modulated by reduced Let 7f-1 miRNA abundance. Growth restriction of mothers before birth and exercise differentially regulate the placental IGF system with diet- and sex-specific responses, probably as a means to improve fetoplacental growth and development, and hence neonatal survival. This increased neonatal survival may prevent adult disease onset. ABSTRACT:The insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system regulates fetoplacental growth and plays a role in disease programming. Dysregulation of the IGF system is implicated in several pregnancy perturbations associated with altered fetal growth, including intrauterine growth restriction and maternal obesity. Limited human studies have demonstrated that maternal exercise enhances fetoplacental growth and decreases cord IGF ligands, which may restore the placental IGF system in complicated pregnancies. This study investigated the impact maternal exercise has on the placental IGF system in placentae from mothers born growth restricted and if these outcomes are dependent on maternal diet or fetal sex. Uteroplacental insufficiency (Restricted) or sham (Control) surgery was induced on embryonic day (E) 18 in Wistar-Kyoto rats. F1 offspring were fed a chow or high-fat diet from weaning, and at 16 weeks were randomly allocated an exercise protocol: Sedentary, Exercised prior to and during pregnancy (Exercise), or Exercised during pregnancy only (PregEx). Females were mated (20 weeks) with placentae associated with F2 fetuses collected at E20. The placental IGF system mRNA abundance and placental morphology was altered in mothers born growth restricted. Exercise increased fetal weight and Control plasma IGF1 concentrations, and decreased female placental weight. PregEx did not influence fetoplacental growth but increased placental IGF1 and IGF1R (potentially modulated by reduced Let 7f-1 miRNA) and decreased placental IGF2 protein. Importantly, these placental IGF system changes occurred with sex-specific responses. These data highlight that exercise differently influences fetoplacental growth and the placental IGF system depending on maternal exercise initiation, which may prevent the transgenerational transmission of deficits and dysfunction.


  • Mangwiro, Yeukai TM
  • Cuffe, James SM
  • Briffa, Jessica F
  • Mahizir, Dayana
  • Anevska, Kristina
  • Jefferies, Andrew J
  • Hosseini, Sogand
  • Romano, Tania
  • Moritz, Karen M
  • Wlodek, Mary E

publication date

  • 2018