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Maintained expression of genes associated with metabolism in the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus despite development of leptin resistance during pregnancy in the rat

Authors

  • Hollian R. Phillipps,

    1. Centre for Neuroendocrinology and Department of Anatomy, School of Medical Sciences, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
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  • Sharon R. Ladyman,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Neuroendocrinology and Department of Anatomy, School of Medical Sciences, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
    • Correspondence

      Sharon Ladyman, Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand.

      Tel: +64 (03) 4703442

      Fax: +64 (03) 4797254

      E-mail: sharon.ladyman@anatomy.otago.ac.nz

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  • David R. Grattan

    1. Centre for Neuroendocrinology and Department of Anatomy, School of Medical Sciences, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
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Abstract

Hyperphagia and weight gain to acquire energy stores for development and growth of the fetus and to prepare for the demands of lactation are important adaptations to support a healthy pregnancy. As a consequence, hypothalamic leptin resistance develops to enable maintenance of a positive energy state. During pregnancy there is a decrease in leptin receptor expression and reduced leptin-induced phospho signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (pSTAT3) in the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus (VMN), suggesting that the VMN is a key site of pregnancy-induced modification in the control of energy homeostasis. The aim of this study was to investigate expression levels of known gene targets, which are involved in metabolic regulation and glucosensing, within the VMN during pregnancy. Using in situ hybridization, pituitary adenylate cyclase–activated polypeptide (Pacap), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf), and glucokinase messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) expression were localized in the hypothalamus of nonpregnant and day 14 pregnant rats, then expression levels were compared by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) using laser capture microdissection of the VMN and arcuate nucleus. Despite significantly elevated plasma leptin and insulin concentrations, and lower blood glucose levels, during pregnancy, no significant changes in gene expression of Pacap, Bdnf, or glucokinase were detected between nonpregnant and day 14 pregnant groups. These data suggest that loss of leptin and insulin sensitivity in the VMN might allow gene expression to be maintained at normal/control levels in this nucleus, despite marked changes in the levels of these important regulatory hormones. These data provide further evidence for development of leptin resistance in the VMN as an adaptive response during pregnancy.

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