Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 March 2007
The present study tested the influence of protein undernutrition and re-alimentation on mammary gland size and secretory cell activity in lactating rats. During gestation, female Sprague-Dawley rats were offered a high-protein diet (215 g crude protein (N x 625; CP)/kg DM; H); litters were standardized to twelve pups at parturition. During lactation, two diets were offered ad libitum, diet H and a low- protein diet (90 g CP/kg DM; L). Lactational dietary treatments were the supply ad libitum of either diet H (HHH) or diet L (LLL) for the first 12 d of lactation, or diet L transferring to diet H on either day 6 (LHH) or 9 (LLH) of lactation. On days 1, 6, 9 and 12 of lactation, rats from each group (n > 6) were used to estimate mammary dry mass, fat, protein, DNA and RNA; the activities of lactose synthetase (EC 188.8.131.52) enzyme and Na+, K+-ATPase (EC 184.108.40.206) were also measured. Rats offered a diet considered protein sufficient (H) from day 1 of lactation showed a decrease in mammary dry mass and fat but an increase in DNA, RNA and protein on day 6, after which there was no further change, except for mammary protein which continued to increase. However, rats offered diet L showed a steady loss in mammary mass and fat throughout the 12 d lactation period and no change in mammary DNA, RNA or protein. Rats previously protein restricted for either the first 6 or 9 d of lactation had their mammary dry mass and mammary fat loss halted and showed a rapid increase in mammary DNA, RNA and protein on re-alimentation. Lactose production in group HHH, as measured by lactose synthetase activity, was similar on days 1 and 6 of lactation, after which a significant increase was seen. Protein- restricted rats showed no change in lactose synthetase activity during the 12 d experimental period. Changing from diet L to diet H led to a significant increase in lactose synthetase activity to levels comparable with those offered diet H from day 1. These results show that rats offered a protein-restricted diet during lactation suffer mammary underdevelopment, but this may be rapidly reversed by re-alimentation with a high-protein diet
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