Effect of maternal overnutrition on predisposition to insulin resistance in the foal: Foal skeletal muscle development and insulin signaling. Academic Article uri icon


  • Skeletal muscle plays an integral role in the ability of a horse to perform at high levels. Shifts in skeletal muscle development in response to maternal plane of nutrition may have substantial and lasting impacts on athletic performance and whole-body metabolism. Therefore, sixteen Quarter Horse mares were used in a completely randomized design and maintained at a body condition score (BCS) 6 until start of third trimester. On d 235 of gestation, mares were randomly assigned to receive one of two dietary treatments with a diet formulated to meet requirements during late gestation (CON; n=8), and an overfed diet (HIGH; n=8) where mares received an additional 40% above CON. Five h after parturition, foals were euthanized, and gluteus medius, triceps brachii, and semitendinosus were harvested for analyses. Gene expression was determined by qPCR and western immunoblotting was used to quantify total and phosphorylated forms of proteins involved in skeletal muscle metabolism with tubulin as the loading control. All data were analyzed using PROC MIXED of SAS. Foals from HIGH mares exhibited larger skeletal muscle fibers by area (P <0.05), and a shift in muscle fiber development towards type I slow twitch muscle fibers (P <0.05). Relative expression of glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4) was lower in HIGH foals compared to CON in gluteus medius (P=0.05). Insulin receptor isoform B (INSR-B) and insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF1R) were greater in triceps brachii of HIGH foals compared to CON (P 0.03). Insulin receptor isoform A (INSR-A), however, tended to be lower in triceps brachii of HIGH compared to CON (P=0.10). Ratios of phosphorylated to total extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) and c-June N-terminal kinase (JNK) were higher in HIGH foals compared to CON (P 0.04) in gluteus medius. There were no differences observed for phosphorylated to total protein ratios in semitendinosus and triceps brachii muscles; however, total ERK1/2 tended to be elevated (P <0.10) in semitendinosus from CON foals compared to HIGH. There was no difference in phosphorylated or total protein kinase B (AKT) (P >0.14). These data indicate hypertrophy of skeletal muscle fibers and a shift towards type I slow twitch fibers in HIGH foals. Furthermore, this study identifies muscle specific changes in gene expression and downstream insulin receptor signaling, which may contribute to future metabolic abnormalities in response to maternal overnutrition.

published proceedings

  • Domest Anim Endocrinol

author list (cited authors)

  • Bradbery, A. N., Coverdale, J. A., Hammer, C. J., Dunlap, K. A., Leatherwood, J. L., & Satterfield, M. C.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Bradbery, AN||Coverdale, JA||Hammer, CJ||Dunlap, KA||Leatherwood, JL||Satterfield, MC

publication date

  • January 2021