1. Various biochemical variables of the skins of rat dams and their fetuses in which protein-energy malnutrition was induced during pregnancy were analysed.
2. One group of dams was fed on a 200 g protein/kg diet as a control and the other was fed on a 60 g protein/kg diet as an experimental group. Each group of dams was fed from day 13 of gestation until day 22.
3. Water, protein and hexosamine concentrations of the fetal skins in the malnourished group were greater than those in the control group, whereas in the dams′ skins, protein concentration was greater in the malnourished group than in the control group.
4. Extractability of collagen with neutral salt and pepsin showed no difference between the groups in the skins of fetuses and dams. The content of type III collagen in the fetal skin did not differ between the groups, but was increased in the malnourished dams′ skins compared with that of the control group.
5. The present study showed that protein-energy malnutrition during pregnancy significantly affects the metabolism of the skin in both fetuses and their dams. Furthermore, the skins of fetuses and dams are structurally altered in different ways by this nutritional stress.