Excessive weight gain during pregnancy increases carcinogen-induced mammary tumorigenesis in Sprague-Dawley and lean and obese zucker rats

Sonia De Assis, Mingyue Wang, Shruti Goel, Aaron Foxworth, William Helferich, Leena Hilakivi-Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Excessive weight gain during pregnancy increases breast cancer risk in women. To determine whether this may be caused by increased pregnancy leptin levels, leptin receptor (Ob-Rb) mutant (fa/fa) and wild-type (FA/FA) female Zucker rats and Sprague-Dawley rats were fed during pregnancy an obesity-inducing high-fat diet (OID) that increased pregnancy weight gain, or a control diet. Because mutant Zucker rats do not readily become pregnant, their pregnancy was mimicked by exposing the rats to subcutaneous silastic capsules containing 150 μg of estradiol and 30 mg of progesterone for 3 wk. Sprague-Dawley rats underwent normal pregnancy. An assessment of hormone levels on gestation d 17 indicated that an exposure to the OID significantly elevated serum leptin concentration but did not affect those of estradiol or insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). Insulin and adiponectin levels were higher in the obese than lean Zucker rats, but were not related to pregnancy weight gain. Exposure to the OID during pregnancy increased 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA)-induced mammary tumorigenesis in all genetic backgrounds, including leptin receptor mutant Zucker rats. The results also indicated that obese Zucker rats that underwent mimicked pregnancy developed more palpable tumors and hyperplastic alveolar nodules that lean Zucker rats. Further, mammary epithelial cell proliferation assessed using PCNA staining was elevated in obese Zucker rats as was activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK); however, neither of these 2 changes occurred in the context of excessive weight gain during pregnancy. It remains to be determined whether an increase in leptin levels was causally associated with an increase in the dams' mammary tumorigenesis, including in obese Zucker rats with dramatically reduced leptin signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)998-1004
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Leptin
  • MAPK
  • Mammary tumorigenesis
  • Pregnancy
  • Weight gain


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