The Journal of Physiology
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The association between intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and hypertension is well established, yet the interaction between IUGR and other pathogenic contributors remains ill-defined. This study examined the independent and interactive effects of fetal growth reduction resulting in low birth weight (LBW), and postnatal Western diet (WD) on vascular function. Growth reduction was induced in pregnant guinea pigs by uterine artery ablation. LBW and normal birth weight (NBW) offspring were randomly assigned to a control diet (CD) or a WD. In young adulthood, length-tension curves were generated in aortic rings and responses to methacholine (MCh) were evaluated in the carotid and aorta using wire myography. Relative to NBW/CD, aortae of NBW/WD offspring were stiffer, as determined by a leftward shift in the length-tension curve, yet the shift in the LBW/CD curve was considerably greater. Aortic stiffening was most severe in LBW/WD (slope: NBW/CD, 1.97 ± 0.04; NBW/WD, 2.16 ± 0.04; LBW/CD, 2.28 ± 0.05; LBW/WD, 2.34 ± 0.07). Maximal responses (Emax) to MCh were significantly blunted in the aorta of LBW/CD vs. NBW/CD (P < 0.05) and in LBW/WD vs. NBW/WD offspring (P < 0.05); but WD alone had no influence on MCh responses. Emax values for carotid responses to MCh were reduced in LBW/CD vs. NBW/CD (P < 0.05). Thus, aortic stiffening was influenced more by LBW than by a postnatal WD and the most severe stiffening was observed in LBW/WD offspring. In contrast, blunted endothelial responses in LBW/CD offspring were not exacerbated by WD. IUGR may have a greater independent impact on vascular function than a postnatal WD.