Sex differences in adult rat insulin and glucose responses to arginine: programming effects of neonatal separation, hypoxia, and hypothermia


Endocrine Research Laboratory, Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center, Aurora Research Institute, Milwaukee, Wisconsin Departments of Medicine, Surgery, and Physiology


Acute neonatal hypoxia, a common stressor, causes a spontaneous decrease in body temperature which may be protective. There is consensus that hypothermia should be prevented during acute hypoxia in the human neonate; however, this may be an additional stress with negative consequences. We hypothesize that maintaining body temperature during hypoxia in the first week of postnatal life alters the subsequent insulin, glucose, and glucagon secretion in adult rats. Rat pups were separated from their dam daily from postnatal days (PD) 2-6 for the following 90 min experimental treatments: (1) normoxic separation (control), (2) hypoxia (8% O2) allowing spontaneous hypothermia, (3) normoxic hypothermia with external cold, and (4) exposure to 8% O2 while maintaining body temperature using external heat. An additional normoxic non-separated control group was performed to determine if separation per se changed the adult phenotype. Plasma insulin, glucose, and glucagon responses to arginine stimulation were evaluated from PD105 to PD133. Maternal separation (compared to non-separated neonates) had more pronounced effects on the adult response to arginine compared to the hypoxic, hypothermic, and hypoxic-isothermic neonatal treatments. Adult males exposed to neonatal maternal separation had augmented insulin and glucose responses to arginine compared to unseparated controls. Additionally, neonatal treatment had a significant effect on body weight gain; adults exposed to neonatal maternal separation were significantly heavier. Female adults had significantly smaller insulin and glucose responses to arginine regardless of neonatal treatment. Neonatal maternal separation during the first week of life significantly altered adult beta-cell function in a sexually dimorphic manner.

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