Relationship between abnormal maternal inflammation and insulin resistance during pregnancy
Chasmar, Margaret S.
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Abnormal maternal inflammation during pregnancy is linked to complications such as preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction. There is growing evidence that insulin resistance is also associated with a heightened inflammatory state, and is linked to pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes. This study tested the hypothesis that abnormal inflammation during pregnancy is causally linked to elevations in blood glucose and insulin resistance. To induce a state of abnormal systemic inflammation, bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was administered to pregnant rats on gestational days (GD) 13.5-16.5. Dams treated with LPS exhibited an abnormal immune response characterized by an elevation in white blood cells, which was linked to reduced fetal weight and increased glucose levels over pregnancy. Abnormal inflammation is characterized by increased levels of circulating pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF) and interleukin-6, which contribute to insulin resistance by inhibiting the insulin signalling pathway. TNF in particular induces a serine phosphorylation (pSer307) of insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS-1). In our model, insulin resistance was assessed by measuring the extent of pSer307 of IRS-1 and total IRS-1 expression in skeletal muscle, as well as changes in metabolic parameters and pancreas tissue morphology associated with insulin resistance. LPS-treated dams exhibited a significant reduction in IRS-1 expression, elevation in fasting glucose levels, and reduction in insulin sensitivity indices. There were also biologically relevant increases in fasting plasma insulin levels and insulin resistance indices, but not pSer307 of IRS-1 and pancreatic islet size. To determine whether inflammation plays a role in reducing insulin signalling and the other changes associated with LPS administration, etanercept, a TNF antagonist, was administered on GDs 13.5 and 15.5 prior to LPS injections. With the exception of IRS-1 expression, in rats treated with etanercept all of the measured parameters remained at the levels observed in saline controls, indicating a link between abnormal inflammation and insulin resistance. The results of this study support the practice of monitoring the inflammatory conditions of the mother prior to and during pregnancy, and support further investigation into the potential use of anti-inflammatory agents during pregnancy in women at risk of insulin resistance and gestational diabetes.