Diabetic pregnancy as a novel risk factor for cardiac dysfunction in the offspring—the heart as a target for fetal programming in rats

Till, Schütte, Sarah M., Kedziora, Nadine, Haase, Florian, Herse, Natalia, Alenina, Dominik N., Müller, Michael, Bader, Michael, Schupp, Ralf, Dechend, Michaela, Golic, Kristin, Kräker

Diabetologia |

Aims/hypothesis: The impact of diabetic pregnancy has been investigated extensively regarding offspring metabolism; however, little is known about the influence on the heart. We aimed to characterise the effects of a diabetic pregnancy on male adult offspring cardiac health after feeding a high-fat diet in an established transgenic rat model. Methods: We applied our rat model for maternal type 2 diabetes characterised by maternal insulin resistance with hyperglycaemia and hyperinsulinaemia. Diabetes was induced preconceptionally via doxycycline-induced knock down of the insulin receptor in transgenic rats. Male wild-type offspring of diabetic and normoglycaemic pregnancies were raised by foster mothers, followed up into adulthood and subgroups were challenged by a high-fat diet. Cardiac phenotype was assessed by innovative speckle tracking echocardiography, circulating factors, immunohistochemistry and gene expression in the heart. Results: When feeding normal chow, we did not observe differences in cardiac function, gene expression and plasma brain natriuretic peptide between adult diabetic or normoglycaemic offspring. Interestingly, when being fed a high-fat diet, adult offspring of diabetic pregnancy demonstrated decreased global longitudinal (−14.82 ± 0.59 vs −16.60 ± 0.48%) and circumferential strain (−23.40 ± 0.57 vs −26.74 ± 0.34%), increased relative wall thickness (0.53 ± 0.06 vs 0.37 ± 0.02), altered cardiac gene expression, enlarged cardiomyocytes (106.60 ± 4.14 vs 87.94 ± 1.67 μm), an accumulation of immune cells in the heart (10.27 ± 0.30 vs 6.48 ± 0.48 per fov) and higher plasma brain natriuretic peptide levels (0.50 ± 0.12 vs 0.12 ± 0.03 ng/ml) compared with normoglycaemic offspring on a high-fat diet. Blood pressure, urinary albumin, blood glucose and body weight were unaltered between groups on a high-fat diet. Conclusions/interpretation: Diabetic pregnancy in rats induces cardiac dysfunction, left ventricular hypertrophy and altered proinflammatory status in adult offspring only after a high-fat diet. A diabetic pregnancy itself was not sufficient to impair myocardial function and gene expression in male offspring later in life. This suggests that a postnatal high-fat diet is important for the development of cardiac dysfunction in rat offspring after diabetic pregnancy. Our data provide evidence that a diabetic pregnancy is a novel cardiac risk factor that becomes relevant when other challenges, such as a high-fat diet, are present. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]