Body Protein Reserves Sustain Maternal Performance in Early Lactation but Dietary Protein Is Necessary to Maintain Performance and Immune Responses to Nippostrongylus brasiliensis in Lactating Rats

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Abstract

Background: It has been shown that dietary protein supplementation during lactation boosts immunity in Nippostrongylus brasiliensis–infected periparturient rats. It is not known whether body protein reserves accumulated during gestation have a similar effect during lactation. Objective: This study aimed to quantify the impact of body protein reserves and dietary protein supplementation on maternal performance and immune responses to N. brasiliensis during lactation. Methods: Multiparous female Sprague-Dawley rats were administered a primary infection of N. brasiliensis before mating and were restriction-fed either 60 g [low-protein diet gestation (Lge)] or 210 g [high-protein diet gestation (Hge)] crude protein (CP) per kilogram of dry matter (DM) until parturition. From parturition onward, dams were restriction-fed either 100 g [low-protein diet lactation (Lla)] or 300 g [high-protein diet lactation (Hla)] CP per kilogram of DM, generating 4 different dietary treatments. A subset of rats was sampled before parturition; postparturition, dams were secondarily infected with N. brasiliensis and samples were collected at days 5 and 11 postparturition. Results: Maternal performance until parturition, as measured by pup weight, was better in Hge rats than in Lge rats [Lge: 4.84 g; Hge: 6.15 g; standard error of the difference (SED): 0.19]. On day 11, pup weights of dams with reduced protein reserves fed protein during lactation (Lge-Hla; 20.28 g) were higher than their counterparts from Hge-Lla dams (17.88 g; SED: 0.92). Worm counts were significantly different between Lge-Lla–fed (253; 95% CI: 124, 382) and Hge- Hla–fed (87; 95% CI: 22, 104) dams on day 11 (P = 0.024). The expression of splenic interleukin 13 (Il13) and arachidonate 15-lipoxygenase (Alox15) was significantly higher (P < 0.05) in Hge-Hla dams compared with Lge-Lla dams on day 5. Conclusions: Although protein reserves were adequate to maintain maternal performance in the early stage of lactation in dams infected with N. brasiliensis, they were not adequate to maintain maternal performance and effective immune responses at later stages. Dietary protein supplementation was required to achieve this.

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Masuda, A., Houdijk, J. G. M., Allen, J. E., & Athanasiadou, S. (2018). Body Protein Reserves Sustain Maternal Performance in Early Lactation but Dietary Protein Is Necessary to Maintain Performance and Immune Responses to Nippostrongylus brasiliensis in Lactating Rats. Journal of Nutrition, 148(10), 1638–1646. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxy133

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