31 October 2002
Supraoptic nucleus, Neonatal imprinting, Dehydration, Prohormone convertases, Adrenal steroids, Food deprivation, Hippocampus, Corticotropin, Adrenal steroid receptors, Proopiomelanocortin, Vasopressin, Paraventricular nucleus
Dehydration, a classic homeostatic stressor in rats, leads to a series of well characterized endocrine responses including stimulation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. In this study, the hypothesis to be tested was that a 50% maternal food restriction (FR50) in late gestation and lactation may have long-term repercussions on HPA axis responsiveness to dehydration in offspring. For this purpose, we studied HPA axis activity in 4-month-old control (C) and perinatally malnourished male rats after a 72-hour water deprivation period. Furthermore, we investigated the long-lasting effects of perinatal maternal malnutrition on the basal activity of the HPA axis. Under basal conditions, rats exposed to perinatal malnutrition showed reduced body weight, enhanced mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) mRNA levels in CA2 and CA3 hippocampal areas, but decreased glucocorticoid receptor (GR) mRNA levels in CA1, CA3 and dentate gyrus (DG) areas. In contrast, the levels of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and vasopressin (VP) mRNAs in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) as well as of VP mRNA in the supraoptic nucleus (SON) were unaffected by maternal undernutrition. Expression of proopiomelanocortin (POMC) in the adenohypophysis was significantly enhanced, whereas prohormone convertase-1 (PC1) was not affected. Perinatal malnutrition reduced absolute adrenal weight but did not affect circulating levels of adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), corticosterone and free corticosterone as well as corticosteroid-binding globulin (CBG) binding capacity. Seventy-two hours of dehydration induced a decrease in body weight and CRH mRNA levels in PVN of controls as well as of FR50 rats, but also led to a rise in plasma corticosterone and free corticosterone without changing CBG binding capacity. Dehydration also induced an increase in adenopituitary POMC (C) and PC1 (FR50), PVN and SON VP (C) and GR in CA1 hippocampal area (FR50) mRNA levels and plasma ACTH (C), but a decrease in MR in DG (C) and GR in CA3 and DG (C) mRNA levels. We conclude that maternal food restriction during the perinatal period affects (1) the adult basal activity of the HPA axis with mainly opposite effects on hippocampal MR and GR gene expression and an increase in adenopituitary POMC gene expression, and (2) the responsiveness to water deprivation in adults. In the latter case, the rise in plasma ACTH levels, adenopituitary POMC gene expression, hypothalamic VP gene expression, and the decrease in hippocampal MR gene expression in DG and GR gene expression in CA3 and DG observed in controls are lacking in FR50 rats. In contrast, drastic adenopituitary PC1 gene expression occurred in FR50 rats but not in control animals.