Sex and gender differences in developmental programming of metabolism


Dearden L, Bouret SG, Ozanne SE

Scientific Notation:

Molecular Metabolism

Publication Link:


Background: The early life environment experienced by an individual in utero and during the neonatal period is a major factor in shaping later life disease risk-including susceptibility to develop obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The incidence of metabolic disease is different between males and females. How the early life environment may underlie these sex differences is an area of active investigation.

Scope of review: The purpose of this review is to summarize our current understanding of how the early life environment influences metabolic disease risk in a sex specific manner. We also discuss the possible mechanisms responsible for mediating these sexually dimorphic effects and highlight the results of recent intervention studies in animal models.

Major conclusions: Exposure to states of both under- and over-nutrition during early life predisposes both sexes to develop metabolic disease. Females seem particularly susceptible to develop increased adiposity and disrupted glucose homeostasis as a result of exposure to in utero undernutrition or high sugar environments, respectively. The male placenta is particularly vulnerable to damage by adverse nutritional states and this may underlie some of the metabolic phenotypes observed in adulthood. More studies investigating both sexes are needed to understand how changes to the early life environment impact differently on the long-term health of male and female individuals.

FPWR Grant:

Development of appetite-related neural circuits in a mouse model for Prader-Willi syndrome (year 1)