Childhood obesity increases the risk of adult obesity and diabetes, suggesting that early overnutrition permanently programs altered energy and glucose homeostasis. In the present studies, we used a mouse model to investigate whether early overnutrition increases susceptibility to obesity and insulin resistance in response to a high-fat diet (HFD). Litters from Swiss Webster dams were culled to three [chronic postnatal overnutrition (CPO)] or 10 (control) pups and then weaned onto standard chow at postnatal day (P) 23. At 6 wk of age, a subset of mice was placed on HFD, and glucose and insulin tolerance were examined at 16-17wk of age. Leptin sensitivity was determined by hypothalamic phosphorylated signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 immunoreactivity at P16 and adulthood after ip leptin. CPO mice exhibited accelerated body weight gain and hyperleptinemia during the preweaning period but only a slightly heavier body weight and normal glucose tolerance in adulthood on standard chow diet. Importantly, CPO mice exhibited significant leptin resistance in the arcuate nucleus, demonstrated by reduced activation of phospho-signal transducer and activator of transcription-3, as early as P16 and throughout life, despite normalized leptin levels. In response to HFD, CPO but not control mice displayed insulin resistance in response to an insulin tolerance test. In conclusion, CPO mice exhibited early and persistent leptin resistance in the arcuate nucleus and, in response to HFD, rapid development of obesity and insulin resistance. These studies suggest that early overnutrition can permanently alter energy homeostasis and significantly increase susceptibility to obesity and insulin resistance.
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