Catch-up growth (CUG) in childhood is defined as periods of growth acceleration, after the resolution of growth attenuation causes, bringing the children back to their original growth trajectory. Sometimes, however, CUG is incomplete, leading to permanent growth deficit and short stature. The aim of this study was to investigate the mechanisms that limit nutritional-CUG. Specifically, we focused on the crosstalk between leptin, increased by re-feeding, and sex hormones, which increase with age. In vivo studies were performed in young male Sprague Dawley rats fed ad libitum or subjected to 10/36 days of 40% food restriction followed by 90-120 days of re-feeding. In vitro studies were performed on ATDC5 cells. Analyses of mRNA and protein levels were done using qPCR and Western blot, respectively. CUG was complete in body weight and humerus length in animals that were food-restricted for 10 days but not for those food-restricted for 36 days. In vitro studies showed that leptin significantly increased aromatase gene expression and protein level as well as the expression of estrogen and leptin receptors in a dose- and time-dependent manner. The effect of leptin on aromatase was direct and was mediated through the MAPK/Erk, STAT3 and PI3K pathways. The crosstalk between leptin and aromatase in the growth plate suggests that re-feeding during puberty may lead to increased estrogen level and activity, and consequently, irreversible premature epiphyseal growth plate closure. These results may have important implications for the development of novel treatment strategies for short stature in children.
- Catch-up growth (CUG)
- Growth plate