The effect of gestational undernutrition on maternal weight change and fetal weight in lines of mice selected for different growth characteristics

CM Dwyer, C Moinard, KM McIlvaney, CA Morgan, L Bunger

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The present study investigated whether the genetic growth characteristics (fast or slow growing, lean or fat) of a mother influences her ability to partition nutrients to developing offspring. A total of sixty-one pregnant mice of three selected lines were used: fast-growing, relatively fat (FF, n 19); fast-growing, relatively lean (FL, n 23); and normal growth, relatively lean (NL, n 19). On day 1 of pregnancy, mice were given either ad libitum access to food (control (C): n 32) or pair-fed at 80 % of C intake (restricted (R): n 29). Feed intake and dam weight were measured daily. The weight of the mouse, organs, mammary tissue and the weight of fetuses and placentas were determined at day 18 of gestation. Overall, R dams gained less than half the weight of C dams during gestation. NL dams gained the most weight, and FF dams gained the least weight (P < 0·001). R dams in the fast-growing lines mobilised significantly more body fat during gestation than the NL line (P < 0·001) and had a greater reduction in mammary tissue growth. The relative weight of the litter increased in R dams of the FF line but was reduced in both the lean lines. Undernutrition reduced fetal and placental weight, and reduced placental efficiency in all the lines. The reduction was least in the FF line and greatest in the FL line. The data suggest that selection of animals for different growth characteristics alters their response to undernutrition during pregnancy, the relatively fat line was better able to buffer its offspring from the effects of undernutrition than the lean lines, regardless of their underlying rate of growth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539 - 548
Number of pages10
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number4
Publication statusFirst published - 2011


Bibliographical note



  • Gestational undernutrition
  • Growth characteristic
  • Maternal weight
  • Mice
  • Weight change

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