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BACKGROUND: We determined whether maternal nutrient restriction (MNR) in guinea pigs leading to fetal growth restriction (FGR) impacts markers for brain hypoxia and oxidative stress.
METHODS: Guinea pigs were fed ad libitum (control) or 70% of the control diet before pregnancy, switching to 90% at mid-pregnancy (MNR). Near term, hypoxyprobe-1 (HP-1) was injected into pregnant sows. Fetuses were then necropsied and brain tissues were processed for HP-1 (hypoxia marker) and 4HNE, 8-OHdG, and 3-nitrotyrosine (oxidative stress markers) immunoreactivity (IR).
RESULTS: FGR-MNR fetal and brain weights were decreased 38 and 12%, respectively, with brain/fetal weights thereby increased 45% as a measure of brain sparing, and more so in males than females. FGR-MNR HP-1 IR was increased in most of the brain regions studied, and more so in males than females, while 4HNE and 8-OHdG IR were increased in select brain regions, but with no sex differences.
CONCLUSIONS: Chronic hypoxia is likely to be an important signaling mechanism in the FGR brain, but with males showing more hypoxia than females. This may involve sex differences in adaptive decreases in growth and normalizing of oxygen, with implications for sex-specific alterations in brain development and risk for later neuropsychiatric disorder.