European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 1201–1213 | Cite as

Enhanced sensitivity of skeletal muscle growth in offspring of mice long-term selected for high body mass in response to a maternal high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet during lactation

  • Charlotte Rehfeldt
  • Martina Langhammer
  • Marzena Kucia
  • Gerd Nürnberg
  • Cornelia C. Metges
Original Contribution



To investigate the effects of a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet fed to mice of different genotypes during pregnancy and/or lactation on offspring skeletal muscle growth and metabolism.


Pregnant mice from strains selected for high body mass (DU6) or endurance running performance (DUhLB) and from an unselected control strain (DUK) were fed iso-energetic diets containing 20 % (C) or 40 % protein and low carbohydrate (HP) from mating to weaning at day 21 of age. At birth, offspring were cross-fostered resulting in different exposure to maternal prenatal-preweaning diets (C–C, HP–C, C–HP, HP–HP). Rectus femoris muscle of male mice (n = 291) was examined at day 23, 44, 181 and 396 of age for cellular growth and metabolism.


At day 23 of age, body and muscle growth was retarded by 30–40 % (P < 0.0001) in response to the C–HP and HP–HP, but not to the HP–C diet, due to reduced fibre size (P < 0.0001) but not fibre number. DNA was highly reduced in DU6, less in DUhLB, but not in DUK muscle (strain × diet; P < 0.0001). Despite some compensation, muscle growth was still impaired (P < 0.001) in adulthood (day 44; day 181), but at senescence only in DU6 mice (strain × diet; P < 0.05). Only at weaning, isocitrate and lactate dehydrogenase activities were increased or decreased (P < 0.0001), respectively, without influence on fibre type composition.


A high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet fed to dams during lactation, but not during pregnancy, retards skeletal muscle growth in offspring with greater response of a heavy, obese compared with a physically fit and a control genotype and causes a transient shift towards oxidative versus glycolytic muscle metabolism.


Genetic selection Protein/carbohydrate intake Pregnancy Lactation Genotype–nutrition interaction Muscle metabolism 



We thank Karin Zorn, Angela Steinborn, Marie-Jugert Lund, Monika Günther, and Ilka Genke for assistance with animal care, sample collection and laboratory analyses. This work was supported by the Commission of the European Community, within the FP 6 priority Food quality and safety (EARNEST, Food-CT-2005-007036). It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Commission and in no way anticipates its future policy in this area.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

394_2012_431_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (179 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 179kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charlotte Rehfeldt
    • 1
  • Martina Langhammer
    • 2
  • Marzena Kucia
    • 3
  • Gerd Nürnberg
    • 2
  • Cornelia C. Metges
    • 3
  1. 1.Research Unit Muscle Biology and GrowthLeibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN)DummerstorfGermany
  2. 2.Research Unit Genetics and BiometryDummerstorfGermany
  3. 3.Research Unit Nutritional PhysiologyLeibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN)DummerstorfGermany

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