Maternal nutrient restriction alters endocrine pancreas development in fetal heifers. Academic Article uri icon


  • Maternal nutrient restriction during pregnancy alters fetal programming, which modifies the growth and health of the offspring in postnatal life. In cattle, nutrient restriction during pregnancy can be a result of environmental or economic factors, but little is known about how it alters the physiology of the fetus and affects future reproductive or growth efficiency. This study used female monozygotic twins, produced through invitro fertilization and embryo splitting, to determine the effect of moderate maternal nutrient restriction on fetal development. Recipient Angus cross heifers pregnant with one twin were fed a diet meeting 100% National Research Council (NRC) total energy requirements (n = 4; control), whereas recipient heifers pregnant with the second twin were fed at 70% of NRC total energy requirements (n = 4; restricted) from gestational day (GD) 158 to GD 265 in Calan gate feeders. Recipient heifers were killed at GD 265. Change in maternal metabolic body weight was greater from zero in restricted heifers than controls (P < 0.05); restricted heifers lost weight during the nutrient restriction period. There was no difference in last rib back fat or rib eye area between groups (P > 0.10). There was no difference in fetal weight, uterine weight, or total placentome weight between groups (P > 0.10). The pancreas weight was reduced in restricted fetuses compared with control fetuses (P < 0.01), but there were no other differences in fetal organ weights (P > 0.10). Plasma insulin concentrations were reduced in restricted fetuses compared with controls (P < 0.01), but there was no effect of maternal diet on plasma glucose or glucagon concentrations in the fetus (P > 0.10). Histological analyses of the fetal pancreas revealed no differences in endocrine cell number or localization. Results indicate that a modest late gestation nutritional restriction impairs development of the fetal pancreas in the cow. Additional research will be needed to determine if these developmental changes lead to altered glucose and insulin homeostasis in the adult.

published proceedings

  • Domest Anim Endocrinol

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Long, J. M., Trubenbach, L. A., Pryor, J. H., Long, C. R., Wickersham, T. A., Sawyer, J. E., & Satterfield, M. C.

citation count

  • 10

complete list of authors

  • Long, JM||Trubenbach, LA||Pryor, JH||Long, CR||Wickersham, TA||Sawyer, JE||Satterfield, MC

publication date

  • January 2021