Prenatal ethanol exposure-induced adrenal developmental abnormality of male offspring rats and its possible intrauterine programming mechanisms

Hegui Huang, Zheng He, Chunyan Zhu, Lian Liu, Hao Kou, Lang Shen, Hui Wang
Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 2015 October 1, 288 (1): 84-94
Fetal adrenal developmental status is the major determinant of fetal tissue maturation and offspring growth. We have previously proposed that prenatal ethanol exposure (PEE) suppresses fetal adrenal corticosterone (CORT) synthesis. Here, we focused on PEE-induced adrenal developmental abnormalities of male offspring rats before and after birth, and aimed to explore its intrauterine programming mechanisms. A rat model of intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) was established by PEE (4g/kg·d). In PEE fetus, increased serum CORT concentration and decreased insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) concentration, with lower bodyweight and structural abnormalities as well as a decreased Ki67 expression (proliferative marker), were observed in the male fetal adrenal cortex. Adrenal glucocorticoid (GC)-metabolic activation system was enhanced while gene expression of IGF1 signaling pathway with steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR), 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3β-HSD) was decreased. Furthermore, in the male adult offspring of PEE, serum CORT level was decreased but IGF1 was increased with partial catch-up growth, and Ki67 expression demonstrated no obvious change. Adrenal GC-metabolic activation system was inhibited, while IGF1 signaling pathway and 3β-HSD was enhanced with the steroidogenic factor 1 (SF1), and StAR was down-regulated in the adult adrenal. Based on these findings, we propose a "two-programming" mechanism for PEE-induced adrenal developmental toxicity: "the first programming" is a lower functional programming of adrenal steroidogenesis, and "the second programming" is GC-metabolic activation system-related GC-IGF1 axis programming.

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