It is estimated that intra-uterine growth restricted piglets represent 25 % of the total number of piglets born. Growth restricted female pigs have impaired reproductive performance postnatally. HHowever, when during gestation this phenotype arises is not known. With this study, the aim was to improve the understanding of foetal ovarian development in normal and small foetuses throughout gestation. Female Large White X Landrace foetuses were obtained at gestational day (GD) 45, 60 and 90 (n = 5-6 litters/GD). Histological analysis of GATA4 stained foetal ovaries at GD60 and 90 indicated there were fewer primary follicles (P ≤ 0.05) in the foetuses weighing the least compared to those with a weight similar to the mean for the litter (CTMLW) at GD90. Plasma oestradiol concentrations were less in the foetuses with lesser weights compared with greater weight foetuses at GD90 (P ≤ 0.05). The RNA was extracted from ovaries of the lesser weight and CTMLW foetuses at GD45, 60 and 90 and qPCR was performed to quantify relative abundance of 12 candidate mRNAs for which encoded proteins that modulate ovarian function and development. Gestational changes in relative abundances of CD31, PTGFR, SPP1 and VEGFA mRNA transcripts were observed. Relative abundance of KI67 (P = 0.066) and P53 (P ≤ 0.05) was less in ovaries of the lesser weight compared to CTMLW foetuses at GD60. There was a lesser relative abundance of PTGFR mRNA transcript in ovaries from the foetuses with lesser weight compared to CTMLW foetuses at GD45 and 60 (P ≤ 0.05). These findings indicate that postnatal differences in the reproductive potential of growth restricted females are programmed early in gestation. It is hoped that further investigation will improve the understanding of the relationship between prenatal reproductive development and postnatal reproductive performance.
- Foetal growth
- Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR)