Fetal growth restriction, or low birth weight, is a strong determinant for eventual obesity and type 2 diabetes. Clinical studies suggest placental mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling regulates fetal birth weight and the metabolic health trajectory of the offspring. In the current study, we used a genetic model with loss of placental mTOR function (mTOR-KOPlacenta) to test the direct role of mTOR signaling on birth weight and metabolic health in the adult offspring. mTOR-KOPlacenta animals displayed reduced placental area and total weight, as well as fetal body weight at embryonic day (E) 17.5. Birth weight and serum insulin levels were reduced; however, β cell mass was normal in mTOR-KOPlacenta newborns. Adult mTOR-KOPlacenta offspring, under a metabolic high-fat challenge, displayed exacerbated obesity and metabolic dysfunction compared with littermate controls. Subsequently, we tested whether enhancing placental mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) signaling, via genetic ablation of TSC2, in utero would improve glucose homeostasis in the offspring. Indeed, increased placental mTORC1 conferred protection from diet-induced obesity in the offspring. In conclusion, placental mTORC1 serves as a mechanistic link between placental function and programming of obesity and insulin resistance in the adult offspring.
Brian Akhaphong, Daniel C. Baumann, Megan Beetch, Amber D. Lockridge, Seokwon Jo, Alicia Wong, Tate Zemanovic, Ramkumar Mohan, Danica L. Fondevilla, Michelle Sia, Maria Ruth B. Pineda-Cortel, Emilyn U. Alejandro