Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Antenatal glucocorticoids reduce growth in appropriately grown and growth-restricted ovine fetuses in a sex-specific manner

Suzanne L. Miller A B C , Amy E. Sutherland A , Veena G. Supramaniam B , David W. Walker A B , Graham Jenkin A B and Euan M. Wallace A B

A The Ritchie Centre, Monash Institute of Medical Research, Monash University, Clayton, Vic. 3168, Australia.

B Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Monash University, Clayton, Vic. 3168, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: graham.jenkin@monash.edu

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 24(5) 753-758 https://doi.org/10.1071/RD11143
Submitted: 30 May 2011  Accepted: 26 July 2011   Published: 6 January 2012

Abstract

Antenatal glucocorticoids are administered to mature the fetal lungs before preterm birth. Glucocorticoids also have non-pulmonary effects, including reducing fetal body and brain growth. The present study examined whether glucocorticoid administration has a sex-specific effect on growth in appropriately grown (control) and intrauterine growth-restricted (IUGR) fetal sheep. IUGR was induced at 0.7 gestation in fetal sheep by single umbilical artery ligation. On Days 5 and 6 after surgery, IUGR or control fetuses were exposed to the synthetic glucocorticoid betamethasone (BM; 11.4 mg) or saline via intramuscular maternal administration. On Day 7, a postmortem was conducted to determine fetal sex and weight. Compared with control fetuses, the birthweight of male and female IUGR fetuses was significantly reduced (by 18.5 ± 4.4% (P = 0.002) and 21.7 ± 6.0% (P = 0.001), respectively). Maternal administration of BM significantly reduced bodyweight in both control and IUGR fetuses (by 11.3 ± 2.8% and 20.5 ± 3.6% in control male and female fetuses, respectively; and by 22.9 ± 3.1% and 38.3 ± 3.4% in IUGR male and female fetuses, respectively; P < 0.001 for all, versus control + saline) fetuses. In control and IUGR animals the degree of growth restriction was greater in females than males (P < 0.05) following administration of BM. These data suggest that antenatal glucocorticoids reduce fetal growth in a sex-specific manner, with females more growth restricted than males.

Additional keywords: betamethasone, fetal growth, intrauterine growth restriction.


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