Effect of maternal nutrient restriction in sheep on the development of fetal skeletal muscle

Mei Jun Zhu, Stephen P. Ford, Peter W. Nathanielsz, Min Du

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

179 Scopus citations


The effect of maternal nutrient restriction on mTOR (mammalian target of rapamyosin) signaling and the ubiquitin system as well as their possible relation to growth of fetal muscle was determined. Ewes were fed to 50% (nutrient-restricted) or 100% (control-fed) of total digestible nutrients (National Research Council requirement) from Days 28 to 78 of gestation. Ewes were killed at Day 78 of gestation, and the fetal longissimus dorsi muscle was sampled for the measurement of mTOR, ribosomal protein S6, AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), calpastatin, and protein ubiquitylation. No difference was observed in the content of mTOR and ribosomal protein S6, but the phosphorylation of mTOR at Ser2448 and ribosomal protein S6 at Ser235/336 were reduced (P < 0.05) in muscle from nutrient-restricted fetuses. Because phosphorylation of mTOR and ribosomal protein S6 up-regulates protein translation, these results show that nutrient restriction down-regulates protein synthesis in fetal muscle. No difference in AMPK activity was detected. The lack of difference in calpastatin and ubiquitylized protein content shows that nutrient restriction did not affect degradation of myofibrillar proteins in fetal muscle. Fetuses of nutrient-restricted ewes showed retarded development of muscles and skeleton. Muscle from nutrient-restricted fetuses contained fewer secondary myofibers than muscle from control fetuses, and the average area of fasciculi was smaller (P < 0.05). The decreased number of secondary myofibers in nutrient-restricted fetuses may result from the decreased mTOR signaling. Lower activation of mTOR signaling in nutrient-restricted fetuses may reduce the proliferation of myoblasts and, thus, reduce the formation of secondary myofibers. This decrease in secondary myofibers in fetuses may predispose fetuses to metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity, in their postnatal lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1968-1973
Number of pages6
JournalBiology of reproduction
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Early development
  • Signal transduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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