Prenatal stress programming of offspring feeding behavior and energy balance begins early in pregnancy

Diana E. Pankevich, Bridget R. Mueller, Becky Brockel, Tracy L. Bale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


To examine the long-term effects of stress experienced early in gestation on the programming of offspring feeding behaviors and energy balance, pregnant mice were exposed to stress during early pregnancy (days 1-7) and adult offspring examined on chow and high fat diets for long-term outcomes. Placental 11 β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (11β-HSD2) and insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF-2) expression was measured to determine the possible sex-specific contribution of prenatal stress (PNS) on fetal programming of embryo growth and development during early pregnancy. PNS mice showed a basal hyperphagia when on chow diet. Prenatal treatment differences were ameliorated when adult mice were on a high fat diet. Interestingly, PNS male mice also had significantly reduced body weights compared to control males on both chow and high fat diets. Body composition analyses revealed reduced body fat and increased lean mass in PNS mice on the high fat diet, but no differences were detected in plasma leptin or insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels. Mechanistic examination of gene expression in embryonic day 12 placentas found that early PNS was associated with increased IGF-2 expression and sex-dependent effects of stress on 11 β-HSD2, supporting specific aspects of early pregnancy. These studies suggest that the long-term effects of stress during pregnancy on programming of feeding behavior and energy homeostasis begin much earlier in development than previously thought.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-102
Number of pages9
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 4 Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Early pregnancy
  • High fat diet
  • Metabolic programming
  • Stress


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