Effect of pregnancy on adipose tissue biology in a mouse model of obesity
Pedroni, Silvia Marcella Angela
Obesity is recognized as a risk factor for adverse pregnancy outcomes. Maternal obesity prevalence has increased in parallel with that in the general population and is associated with an increase in morbidity and mortality for both mother and baby. Obese mothers are more likely to develop gestational diabetes, hypertensive disorders including preeclampsia, thromboembolic complications, miscarriage, and have an increased need for induction of labour. Babies born from obese mothers can be abnormally large (macrosomia) or small for gestational age, and have a higher risk of perinatal death and congenital malformation. Pregnancy induces marked and dynamic changes in energy metabolism, however, the direct effects of pregnancy adipose tissue biology in both normal lean and obese women is still largely unknown. The aim of this thesis was to delineate novel mechanisms by which pregnancy affects adipose tissue biology, and thus infer how obesity might adversely affect pregnancy outcomes. We used an animal model of obesity during pregnancy in which mice were given a high fat diet (HF) to make them obese. We identified that pregnancy was associated with an unexpected curtailment of visceral (mesenteric) adipose tissue mass in HF mice and with an attenuation, rather than worsening of the metabolic impairment expected from the combination of excess dietary fat and insulin resistance/glucose intolerance of pregnancy. To determine the underlying molecular mechanism contributing to this phenotype global gene expression microarray with subsequent pathway analysis and qRT-PCR validation was employed within the visceral adipose tissue. In visceral fat of HF pregnant mice, gene pathways for de novo lipogenesis and lipid storage, inflammation, retinol metabolism, insulin like growth factor and estrogenic signaling showed altered regulation. Given the known role of estrogen on adipose tissue and inflammatory cell function, a hypothesis was generated that altered estrogen receptor (ER)α expression/activation/increased estradiol presence within mesenteric fat formed a unifying molecular mechanism underlying the altered adipose biology and relative amelioration of the metabolic phenotype in HF pregnant mice. To test the ER α hypothesis, a female clonal adipocyte cell line, Chub-S7, and primary visceral and subcutaneous adipocytes from pregnant obese and lean patients were treated with the ERα selective agonist, PPT. PPT downregulated mRNA levels of key genes involved in de novo lipogenesis (ME1, FANS and SCD1 Dgat2), consistent with a direct role for ERα activation in curtailment of fat expansion. Although the primary human study lacked sufficient power to adequately address the hypothesis, PPT significantly suppressed SCD1 mRNA levels in visceral adipocytes of lean women. In parallel with the curtailment of mesenteric fat expansion, HF pregnant mice were found to have increased liver weight and liver triglyceride content. However, this “fatty liver” phenotype was not associated with increased mRNA levels of genes involved in hepatic triglyceride uptake or de novo lipogenesis. This increase in liver triglycerides may be due to an excessive influx of fatty acids from mesenteric fat through the portal vein. In conclusion, pregnancy in obese animals is associated with a beneficial curtailment in mesenteric fat expansion, normalization of metabolic disturbances and reduced adipose inflammation. Increased ERα activation within adipocytes may play a critical role in this phenotype.