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Effects of maternal undernutrition during early pregnancy on apoptosis regulators in the ovine fetal ovary.

Lea, R G; Andrade, L P; Rae, M T; Hannah, L T; Kyle, C E; Murray, J F; Rhind, S M; Miller, D W


R G Lea

L P Andrade

L T Hannah

C E Kyle

J F Murray

S M Rhind

D W Miller


This study aimed to determine whether reduced fetal ovary folliculogenesis in ewes undernourished during early/midpregnancy is associated with altered ovarian cell proliferation and/or the expression of apoptosis-regulating genes. Groups of ewes (n = 11–19) were fed either 100% (high; H) or 50% (low; L) of metabolisable energy requirements for live-weight maintenance during selected windows of gestation. All animals were killed at days 50, 65 or 110 of gestation. Between mating and slaughter, control animals were fed the H ration, while animals of other subgroups were fed the L ration from (a) mating to slaughter at 50, 65 or 110 days; (b) 0 to 30 days; (c) 31 to 50 or 65 days; or (d), in the day 110 slaughter group only, from 66 to 110 days. Bouin’s-fixed fetal ovaries were examined for (a) Ki67 immunoexpression (proliferation) and (b) Bax and Mcl-1 (apoptosis-regulating genes) expression by in situ hybridisation (day 110) and immunohistochemistry (days 50, 65 and 110). At day 50, maternal nutrition had no effect on Ki67, predominant in germ cells, or Bax and Mcl-1, predominant in the oocytes. Restricted maternal food intake from 0 to 30 days significantly reduced staining for Ki67 in germ cells at day 65 (P < 0.05) but increased staining in granulosa cells at day 110 (P < 0.05). In animals fed the L ration for 110 days, primordial follicle Bax and Mcl-1 were significantly increased (Bax: P < 0.01; Mcl-1: P < 0.05). Granulosa cell Bax was also increased (P < 0.05). When the L ration was fed from 66 to 110 days, granulosa cell Bax (P < 0.05) and primordial follicle Mcl-1 (P < 0.01) were also significantly increased. In the fetal ovarian vasculature, animals underfed for 0–110 days had significantly elevated perivascular Mcl-1 (P < 0.001) and endothelial Bax expression (P < 0.05). Moreover, at day 110, endothelial Mcl-1 was increased by underfeeding from 0 to 30 days (P < 0.05). These data indicate that maternal undernutrition alters proliferation and the expression of apoptosis-regulating genes in the developing fetal ovary. The precise mechanism depends on the window of maternal food restriction.


Lea, R. G., Andrade, L. P., Rae, M. T., Hannah, L. T., Kyle, C. E., Murray, J. F., …Miller, D. W. (2006). Effects of maternal undernutrition during early pregnancy on apoptosis regulators in the ovine fetal ovary. Reproduction, 131, 113-124.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 1, 2006
Publication Date 2006
Deposit Date Jul 27, 2016
Journal Reproduction
Print ISSN 1470-1626
Electronic ISSN 1741-7899
Publisher BioScientifica
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 131
Pages 113-124
Public URL