Volume 63 (2017) Issue 6 Pages 547-554
Intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) impairs fetal intestinal development, and is associated with high perinatal morbidity and mortality. However, the mechanism underlying this intestinal injury is largely unknown. We aimed to investigate this mechanism through analysis of intestinal autophagy and related signaling pathways in a rat model of IUGR. Normal weight (NW) and IUGR fetuses were obtained from primiparous rats via ad libitum food intake and 50% food restriction, respectively. Maternal serum parameters, fetal body weight, organ weights, and fetal blood glucose were determined. Intestinal apoptosis, autophagy, and the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway were analyzed. The results indicated that maternal 50% food restriction reduced maternal serum glucose, bilirubin, and total cholesterol and produced IUGR fetuses, which had decreased body weight; blood glucose; and weights of the small intestine, stomach, spleen, pancreas, and kidney. Decreased Bcl-2 and increased Casp9 mRNA expression was observed in IUGR fetal intestines. Analysis of intestinal autophagy showed that the mRNA expression of WIPI1, MAP1LC3B, Atg5, and Atg14 was also increased, while the protein levels of p62 were decreased in IUGR fetuses. Compared to NW fetuses, IUGR fetuses showed decreased mTOR protein levels and enhanced mRNA expression of ULK1 and Beclin1 in the small intestine. In summary, the results indicated that maternal 50% food restriction on gestational days 10–21 reduced maternal serum glucose, bilirubin, and total cholesterol contents, and produced IUGR fetuses that had low blood glucose and reduced small intestine weight. Intestinal injury of IUGR fetuses caused by maternal food restriction might be due to enhanced apoptosis and autophagy via the mTOR signaling pathway.