Maternal exercise upregulates mitochondrial gene expression and increases enzyme activity of fetal mouse hearts

Eunhee Chung, Hayli E. Joiner, Tracer Skelton, Kalli D. Looten, Maria Manczak, P. Hemachandra Reddy

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    27 Scopus citations


    Maternal exercise during pregnancy has been shown to improve the long-term health of offspring in later life. Mitochondria are important organelles for maintaining adequate heart function, and mitochondrial dysfunction is linked to cardiovascular disease. However, the effects of maternal exercise during pregnancy on mitochondrial biogenesis in hearts are not well understood. Thus, the purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that mitochondrial gene expression in fetal myocardium would be upregulated by maternal exercise. Twelve-week-old female C57BL/6 mice were divided into sedentary and exercise groups. Mice in the exercise group were exposed to a voluntary cage-wheel from gestational day 1 through 17. Litter size and individual fetal weights were taken when pregnant dams were sacrificed at 17 days of gestation. Three to four hearts from the same group were pooled to study gene expression, protein expression, and enzyme activity. There were no significant differences in litter size, sex distribution, and average fetal body weight per litter between sedentary and exercised dams. Genes encoding mitochondrial biogenesis and dynamics, including nuclear respiratory factor-1 (Nrf1), Nrf2, and dynamin-related GTPase termed mitofusin-2 (Mfn2) were significantly upregulated in the fetal hearts from exercised dams. Cytochrome c oxidase activity and ATP production were significantly increased, while the hydrogen peroxide level was significantly decreased in the fetal hearts by maternal exercise. Our results demonstrate that maternal exercise initiated at day 1 of gestation could transfer the positive mitochondrial phenotype to fetal hearts.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numbere13184
    JournalPhysiological reports
    Issue number5
    StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


    • Cytochrome c oxidase
    • electron transport chain
    • fetal hearts
    • hydrogen peroxide
    • mitochondria

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Physiology
    • Physiology (medical)


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