Interpretive Summary: Primary myoblasts from intrauterine growth-restricted fetal sheep exhibit intrinsic dysfunction of proliferation and differentiation that coincides with enrichment of inflammatory cytokine signaling pathways
Myoblasts are stems cells whose functional capacity can limit muscle growth. However, stressful intrauterine conditions cause these cells to be intrinsically dysfunctional. This restricts muscle growth capacity, leading to intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) of the fetus, low birth weight, and less muscle mass after birth. Consequently, meat yield is reduced in IUGR-born food animals and glucose homeostasis is impaired in IUGR-born humans, which contributes to metabolic dysfunction. Intrinsic dysfunction of IUGR myoblasts has been previously observed, but the fetal programming changes (i.e., permanent changes in the development of cellular mechanisms that explains different functional outcomes) have not been identified. This study shows that one mechanism is the enhancement of signaling pathways for TNF-α and other inflammatory cytokines. These cytokines have roles in stress responses and regulation of muscle growth. Programmed enhancement of these pathways means that IUGR myoblasts are more responsive to even normal amounts of circulating cytokines. Unfortunately, the primary response of myoblasts to cytokines is slower differentiation (i.e., cellular transformation necessary for muscle growth). Programmed enhancement of this response directly impedes myoblast-dependent muscle growth, and the deficit is lifelong. However, identifying this mechanism is a fundamental step for developing strategies to improve muscle growth in low birth weight offspring.
Read the full article in the Journal of Animal Science.