Maternal low-protein diet causes body weight loss in male, neonate Sprague-Dawley rats involving UCP-1-mediated thermogenesis

Kate J. Claycombe, Emilie E. Vomhof-DeKrey, James N. Roemmich, Turk Rhen, Othman Ghribi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Brown adipose tissue (BAT) plays an important role in regulating body weight (BW) by modifying thermogenesis. Maternal low protein (LP) diets reduce offspring birth weight. Increased BAT thermogenesis in utero may be one mechanism for the lower BW. However, whether maternal LP nutrition alters BAT thermogenesis and BW of offspring in utero is not yet known. We fed obese-prone Sprague-Dawley dams 8% LP or 20% normal protein (NP) diets for 3 weeks prior to breeding and through pregnancy. BW and gene expression of interscapular BAT (iBAT) thermogenic markers were measured in male fetal (gestation day 18) and neonatal (day 0 or 1) offspring. BW of neonatal LP males was lower than NP males but no difference was observed in females. Gene and protein expression of UCP-1 and transcription factors PRDM16 and PPARa in iBAT were 2- to 6-fold greater in LP than in NP male neonatal offspring. FNDC5, a precursor of irisin and activator of thermogenesis, was expressed 2-fold greater in neonatal LP iBAT than NP males. However, fetal iBAT UCP-1, PRDM16, PPARa and irisin mRNA did not differ between LP and NP groups. Maternal LP diet had no effects on placental irisin and UCP-2 expression. These results suggest that prenatal protein restriction increases the risk for low BW through mechanisms affecting full-term offspring iBAT thermogenesis but not greatly altering fetal iBAT or placental thermogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-735
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutritional Biochemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Brown fat thermogenesis
  • FNDC5
  • Irisin
  • Maternal low protein diet
  • PRDM16
  • Placental irisin
  • UCP-1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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