American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology

Maternal food restriction modulates cerebrovascular structure and contractility in adult rat offspring: effects of metyrapone.

PMID 24477541


Although the effects of prenatal undernutrition on adult cardiovascular health have been well studied, its effects on the cerebrovascular structure and function remain unknown. We used a pair-fed rat model of 50% caloric restriction from day 11 of gestation to term, with ad libitum feeding after birth. We validated that maternal food restriction (MFR) stress is mediated by glucocorticoids by administering metyrapone, a corticosterone synthesis inhibitor, to MFR mothers at day 11 of gestation. At age 8 mo, offspring from Control, MFR, and MFR + Metyrapone groups were killed, and middle cerebral artery (MCA) segments were studied using vessel-bath myography and confocal microscopy. Colocalization of smooth muscle α-actin (SMαA) with nonmuscle (NM), SM1 and SM2 myosin heavy-chain (MHC) isoforms was used to assess smooth muscle phenotype. Our results indicate that artery stiffness and wall thickness were increased, pressure-evoked myogenic reactivity was depressed, and myofilament Ca(2+) sensitivity was decreased in offspring of MFR compared with Control rats. MCA from MFR offspring exhibited a significantly greater SMαA/NM colocalization, suggesting that the smooth muscle cells had been altered toward a noncontractile phenotype. MET significantly reversed the effects of MFR on stiffness but not myogenic reactivity, lowered SMαA/NM colocalization, and increased SMαA/SM2 colocalization. Together, our data suggest that MFR alters cerebrovascular contractility via both glucocorticoid-dependent and glucocorticoid-independent mechanisms.