PloS one 2017 05 2412(5) e0177468 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0177468
Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and rapid postnatal weight gain or catch up growth (CUG) increase the susceptibility to metabolic syndrome during adult life. Longitudinal studies have also revealed a high incidence of learning difficulties in children with IUGR. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of nutrition and CUG on learning memory in an IUGR animal model. We hypothesized that synaptic protein expression and transcription, an essential mechanism for memory consolidation, might be affected by intrauterine undernutrition.
IUGR was induced by 50% maternal caloric undernutrition throughout late gestation. During the suckling period, dams were either fed ad libitum or food restricted. The pups were divided into: Normal prenatal diet-Normal postnatal diet (NN), Restricted prenatal diet- Normal postnatal diet + catch up growth (RN+), Normal prenatal diet-Restricted postnatal diet (NR) and Restricted prenatal diet-Restricted postnatal diet (RR). At 4 weeks of age, memory was assessed via a water maze test. To evaluate synaptic function, 2 specific synaptic proteins (postsynaptic density-95 [PSD95], synaptophysin) as well as insulin receptors (IR) were tested by Western Blot and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Brain-derived neurotrophic factor and serum insulin levels were also studied.
RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS
The RN+ group presented a learning curve similar to the NN animals. The RR animals without CUG showed learning disabilities. PSD95 was lower in the RR group than in the NN and RN+ mice. In contrast, synaptophysin was similar in all groups. IR showed an inverse expression pattern to that of the PSD95. In conclusion, perinatal nutrition plays an important role in learning. CUG after a period of prenatal malnutrition seems to improve learning skills. The functional alterations observed might be related to lower PSD95 activity and a possible dysfunction in the hormone regulation of synaptic plasticity.