Effects of maternal nutrition on fetal and neonatal reproductive development and function.

Macaulay Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK.
Animal Reproduction Science (Impact Factor: 1.9). 08/2004; 82-83:169-81. DOI: 10.1016/j.anireprosci.2004.04.003
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Maternal undernutrition and, under certain circumstances overnutrition, before or during pregnancy or during early postnatal life can alter reproductive function of the offspring. Effects can be exerted at many stages of development, from prior to conception until after birth and may be expressed at the time of the nutritional insult or later. Since patterns of development differ between species, it is probably more appropriate to consider effects in relation to a stage of development rather than relative to the time of birth. Effects exerted at one stage of development may be expressed later, even if the nutritional influence is no longer present. The signals by which maternal nutrition affects the offspring must be related to maternal nutritional state and must have the capacity to reach the embryo, to be 'read' by it and to modify expression of selected genes. It is suggested that single nutrients and/or metabolites are unlikely to have direct impacts on the pattern of development of the reproductive system and it is postulated that multiple endocrine and metabolic signals are involved. Whilst it has been shown that many components of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal system are modified by early life nutritional influences, understanding of the mechanisms through which these effects are exerted remains limited.

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    ABSTRACT: Full article is Open Access at: Anthropogenic stress on natural systems, particularly the fragmentation of landscapes and the extirpation of predators from food webs, has intensified the need to regulate abundance of wildlife populations with management. Controlling population growth using fertility control has been considered for almost four decades, but nearly all research has focused on understanding effects of fertility control agents on individual animals. Questions about the efficacy of fertility control as a way to control populations remain largely unanswered. Collateral consequences of contraception can produce unexpected changes in birth rates, survival, immigration and emigration that may reduce the effectiveness of regulating animal abundance. The magnitude and frequency of such effects vary with species-specific social and reproductive systems, as well as connectivity of populations. Developing models that incorporate static demographic parameters from populations not controlled by contraception may bias predictions of fertility control efficacy. Many population-level studies demonstrate that changes in survival and immigration induced by fertility control can compensate for the reduction in births caused by contraception. The most successful cases of regulating populations using fertility control come from applications of contraceptives to small, closed populations of gregarious and easily accessed species. Fertility control can result in artificial selection pressures on the population and may lead to long-term unintentional genetic consequences. The magnitude of such selection is dependent on individual heritability and behavioural traits, as well as environmental variation. Synthesis and applications. Understanding species' life-history strategies, biology, behavioural ecology and ecological context is critical to developing realistic expectations of regulating populations using fertility control. Before time, effort and funding are invested in wildlife contraception, managers may need to consider the possibility that many species and populations can compensate for reduction in fecundity, and this could minimize any reduction in population growth rate.
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