Maternal nutrient restriction (NR) affects fetal development with long-term consequences on postnatal health of offspring, including predisposition to obesity and diabetes. Most studies have been conducted in fetuses in late gestation, and little information is available on the persistent impact of NR from early to mid-gestation on properties of offspring skeletal muscle, which was the aim of this study. Pregnant ewes were subjected to 50% NR from day 28-78 of gestation and allowed to deliver. The longissimus dorsi muscle was sampled from 8-month-old offspring. Maternal NR during early to mid-gestation decreased the number of myofibres in the offspring and increased the ratio of myosin IIb to other isoforms by 17.6 ± 4.9% (P < 0.05) compared with offspring of ad libitum fed ewes. Activity of carnitine palmitoyltransferase-1, a key enzyme controlling fatty acid oxidation, was reduced by 24.7 ± 4.5% (P < 0.05) in skeletal muscle of offspring of NR ewes and would contribute to increased fat accumulation observed in offspring of NR ewes. Intramuscular triglyceride content (IMTG) was increased in skeletal muscle of NR lambs, a finding which may be linked to predisposition to diabetes in offspring of NR mothers, since enhanced IMTG predisposes to insulin resistance in skeletal muscle. Proteomic analysis by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis demonstrated downregulation of several catabolic enzymes in 8-month-old offspring of NR ewes. These data demonstrate that the early to mid-gestation period is important for skeletal muscle development. Impaired muscle development during this stage of gestation affects the number and composition of fibres in offspring which may lead to long-term physiological consequences, including predisposition to obesity and diabetes.
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