Female and male C57BL/6J offspring exposed to maternal obesogenic diet develop altered hypothalamic energy metabolism in adulthood

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Maternal obesity is exceedingly common and strongly linked to offspring obesity and metabolic disease. Hypothalamic function is critical to obesity development. Hypothalamic mechanisms causing obesity following exposure to maternal obesity have not been elucidated. Therefore, we studied a cohort of C57BL/6J dams, treated with a control or high-fat-high-sugar diet, and their adult offspring to explore potential hypothalamic mechanisms to explain the link between maternal and offspring obesity. Dams treated with obesogenic diet were heavier with mild insulin resistance, which is reflective of the most common metabolic disease in pregnancy. Adult offspring exposed to maternal obesogenic diet had no change in body weight but significant increase in fat mass, decreased glucose tolerance, decreased insulin sensitivity, elevated plasma leptin, and elevated plasma thyroid-stimulating hormone. In addition, offspring exposed to maternal obesity had decreased energy intake and activity without change in basal metabolic rate. Hypothalamic neurochemical profile and transcriptome demonstrated decreased neuronal activity and inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation. Collectively, these results indicate that maternal obesity without diabetes is associated with adiposity and decreased hypothalamic energy production in offspring. We hypothesize that altered hypothalamic function significantly contributes to obesity development. Future studies focused on neuroprotective strategies aimed to improve hypothalamic function may decrease obesity development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E448-E466
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2022

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Copyright © 2022 the American Physiological Society.


  • energy metabolism
  • fetal development
  • hypothalamus
  • obesity
  • sex differences


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