GALVESTON, Texas, July 29 (UPI) -- The offspring of mothers on a low-protein diet are more likely to develop hypertension as adults, U.S. researchers say.
Drs. Haijun Gao, Uma Yallampalli and Chandra Yallampalli of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston said in rats, the high maternal testosterone levels associated with a low-protein diet are caused by reduced activity of an enzyme that inactivates testosterone.
This increased testosterone reaches the fetus and increases the offspring's susceptibility to adulthood hypertension.
The researchers hypothesized the increased testosterone levels were caused either by increased activity of an enzyme that produces testosterone or by decreased activity of an enzyme that reduces testosterone, specifically Hsd17b2, which converts testosterone to a less potent androgen, androstenedione.
The team found that Hsd17b2 expression in rats was affected by protein restriction in two parts of the placenta.
The researchers propose the reduction in Hsd17b2 expression might allow more testosterone to reach the fetus and play a role in fetal programming of hypertension.
The findings are scheduled to be presented at the Society for the Study of Reproduction's annual meeting at State College, Pa.
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