Pregnancy in growth hormone-deficient rats: Assessment of insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), IGF-binding proteins (IGFBPs) and IGFBP protease activity

S. E. Gargosky, K. Nanto-Salonen, P. Tapanainen, R. G. Rosenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Pregnancy in rodents is associated with important maternal metabolic changes. Early pregnancy is considered to be an anabolic phase of nutrient storing, while in late pregnancy, a catabolic phase develops to help meet the metabolic demands of the rapidly growing conceptus. Similarly, major changes also occur in the IGFs, IGF-binding proteins (IGFBPs) and GH axis. In the rat, maternal serum IGF-I levels increase from early to mid-pregnancy, after which IGF-I levels decline. Conversely, as IGF-I levels decline, pituitary-derived rat GH increases twofold. This coincides with a decrease in IGFBP-3 and the appearance of an IGFBP protease. However, the physiological role of these changes is unclear. The aim of our study was to examine the roles of GH, IGFs and IGFBPs during pregnancy in a unique isolated GH-deficient rat model, spontaneous dwarf rats. Pregnancy in GH-deficient dams resulted in a significantly reduced litter number, and maternal weight gain (day 21-day 1) was reduced by 28% when compared with dams with normal GH levels (GH-normal dams). In the sera of GH-normal dams, IGF-I levels increased 2.6-fold by day 4 of pregnancy and then progressively declined to below non-pregnant levels. Serum IGF-II levels were low and remained unchanged. Western-ligand blot analysis showed that IGFBP-3 was present in non-pregnancy and early pregnancy sera, but declined dramatically after day 12. This decline in IGFBP-3 coincided with the detection of an IGFBP protease. In contrast, in non-pregnancy sera from GH-deficient rats, serum IGF-I concentrations were 10% of the levels seen in GH-normal females, and neither IGF-I nor IGF-II concentrations changed with pregnancy. Furthermore, in GH-deficient dams, serum IGFBP-3 (as assessed by Western-ligand blot analysis) was low in non-pregnancy and early pregnancy sera, and became undetectable by day 12 of pregnancy. The low concentrations of IGFBP-3 in early pregnancy serum from GH-deficient rats coincided with IGFBP-proteolytic activity, and the decline in serum IGFBP-3 after day 16 was the result of increased protease activity. In conclusion, isolated GH deficiency results in: (1) reduced maternal weight gain and correspondingly smaller litter sizes; (2) low and unchanged maternal serum IGF-I levels; (3) low, but declining, serum IGFBP-3 levels; and (4) activity of IGFBP protease(s) detectable in early and late pregnancy, which may modulate the bioavailability and bioactivity of IGFs by regulating IGFBP-3.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-489
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Endocrinology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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