Overnutrition and maternal obesity in sheep pregnancy alter the JNK-IRS-1 signaling cascades and cardiac function in the fetal heart

Jingying Wang, Heng Ma, Chao Tong, Hanying Zhang, Gavin B. Lawlis, Yuanda Li, Mengwei Zang, Jun Ren, Mark J. Nijland, Stephen P. Ford, Peter W. Nathanielsz, Ji Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Maternal obesity in pregnancy predisposes offspring to insulin resistance and associated cardiovascular disease. Here, we used a well-established sheep model to investigate the effects of maternal obesity on cardiac functions. Multiparous ewes were assigned to a control (CON) diet [100% of National Research Council (NRC) recommendations] or an obesogenic (OB) diet (150% of NRC recommendations) from 60 d before conception to necropsy on d 135 of pregnancy. Fetal blood glucose and insulin were increased (P<0.01, n=8) in OB (35.09±2.03 mg/dl and 3.40±1.43 μU/ml, respectively) vs. CON ewes (23.80±1.38 mg/dl and 0.769±0.256 μU/ml). Phosphorylation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a cardioprotective signaling pathway, was reduced (P<0.05), while the stress signaling pathway, p38 MAPK, was up-regulated (P<0.05) in OB maternal and fetal hearts. Phosphorylation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS-1) at Ser-307 were increased (P<0.05) in OB fetal heart associated with lower downstream PI3K-Akt activity (P<0.05), indicating impaired cardiac insulin signaling. Although OB fetal hearts exhibited a normal contractile function vs. CON fetal hearts during basal perfusion, they developed an impaired heart-rate-left-ventricular-developed pressure product in response to high workload stress. Taken together, fetuses of OB mothers demonstrate alterations in cardiac PI3K-Akt, AMPK, and JNK-IRS-1 signaling pathways that would predispose them to insulin resistance and cardiac dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2066-2076
Number of pages11
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiac dysfunction
  • Insulin resistance
  • Signaling transduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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