Vitamin D (VitD) deficiency affects more than 1 billion people worldwide with a higher prevalence in reproductive-aged women and children. The physiological effects of maternal VitD deficiency on the reproductive health of the offspring has not been studied. To determine whether maternal VitD deficiency affects reproductive physiology in female offspring, we monitored the reproductive physiology of C57BL/6J female offspring exposed to diet-induced maternal VitD deficiency at three specific developmental stages: 1) in utero, 2) preweaning, or 3) in utero and preweaning. We hypothesized that exposure to maternal VitD deficiency disrupts reproductive function in exposed female offspring. To test this hypothesis, we assessed vaginal opening and cytology and ovary and pituitary function as well as gonadotropin and gonadal steroid levels in female offspring. The in utero, preweaning, and in utero and preweaning VitD deficiency did not affect puberty. However, all female mice exposed to maternal VitD deficiency developed prolonged and irregular estrous cycles characterized by oligoovulation and extended periods of diestrus. Despite similar gonadal steroid levels and GnRH neuron density, females exposed to maternal VitD deficiency released less LH on the evening of proestrus. When compared with control female offspring, there was no significant difference in the ability of females exposed to maternal VitD deficiency to respond robustly to exogenous GnRH peptide or controlled ovarian hyperstimulation. These findings suggest that maternal VitD deficiency programs reproductive dysfunction in adult female offspring through adverse effects on hypothalamic function.
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