Protein restriction during pregnancy affects maternal liver lipid metabolism and fetal brain lipid composition in the rat

Nimbe Torres, Claudia J. Bautista, Armando R. Tovar, Guillermo Ordáz, Maricela Rodríguez-Cruz, Victor Ortiz, Omar Granados, Peter W. Nathanielsz, Fernando Larrea, Elena Zambrano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Suboptimal developmental environments program offspring to lifelong metabolic problems. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of protein restriction in pregnancy on maternal liver lipid metabolism at 19 days of gestation (dG) and its effect on fetal brain development. Control (C) and restricted (R) mothers were fed with isocaloric diets containing 20 and 10% of casein. At 19 dG, maternal blood and livers and fetal livers and brains were collected. Serum insulin and leptin levels were determinate in mothers. Maternal and fetal liver lipid and fetal brain lipid quantification were performed. Maternal liver and fetal brain fatty acids were quantified by gas chromatography. In mothers, liver desaturase and elongase mRNAs were measured by RT-PCR. Maternal body and liver weights were similar in both groups. However, fat body composition, including liver lipids, was lower in R mothers. A higher fasting insulin at 19 dG in the R group was observed (C = 0.2 ± 0.04 vs. R = 0.9 ± 0.16 ng/ml, P < 0.01) and was inversely related to early growth retardation. Serum leptin in R mothers was significantly higher than that observed in C rats (C = 5 ± 0.1 vs. R = 7 ± 0.7 ng/ml, P < 0.05). In addition, protein restriction significantly reduced gene expression in maternal liver of desaturases and elongases and the concentration of arachidonic (AA) and docosahexanoic (DHA) acids. In fetus from R mothers, a low body weight (C = 3 ± 0.3 vs. R = 2 ± 0.1 g, P < 0.05), as well as liver and brain lipids, including the content of DHA in the brain, was reduced. This study showed that protein restriction during pregnancy may negatively impact normal fetal brain development by changes in maternal lipid metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E270-E277
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010


  • Arachidonic acid
  • Development
  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • Programming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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