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Effects of maternal undernutrition during late gestation and/or lactation on colostrum synthesis and immunological parameters in the offspring

S. Chadio A E , A. Katsafadou A , B. Kotsampasi B , G. Michailidis C , K. C. Mountzouris D , D. Kalogiannis A and V. Christodoulou B

A Department of Anatomy and Physiology of Domestic Animals, Faculty of Animal Science and Aquaculture, Agricultural University of Athens, 75, Iera Odos, Athens 11855, Greece.
B Animal Research Institute, General Directory of Agricultural Research, Hellenic Agricultural Organisation-DEMETER, Paralimni Giannitsa 58100, Greece.
C Department of Animal Production, School of Agriculture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki 54124, Greece.
D Department of Nutritional Physiology and Feeding, Faculty of Animal Science and Aquaculture, Agricultural University of Athens, 75, Iera Odos, Athens 11855, Greece.
E Corresponding author. Email: shad@aua.gr

Reproduction, Fertility and Development - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RD14147
Submitted: 5 May 2014  Accepted: 13 June 2014   Published online: 1 August 2014


 
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Abstract

The emerging immune system is vulnerable to insult not only during fetal life, but also through colostrum transfer of maternal factors with immunomodulatory functions. The aim of the present study was to examine the effects of maternal undernutrition during late gestation and/or lactation on colostrum and milk synthesis, as well as on immunological parameters in offspring. Pregnant ewes were fed to 100% of nutrient requirements throughout pregnancy and lactation (Control) or to 50% during lactation (R1) or during the last 20 days of pregnancy and lactation (R2). Colostrum samples were collected 3 and 18 h after parturition and thymus glands were obtained from 5-month-old offspring. Lamb birthweight did not differ between groups, whereas growth rate was significantly lower in males in the R1 group and in females in both undernourished groups. There was a significant reduction in lactose percentage in the 18-h colostrum of the R2 group. The IgG concentration, as a percentage of protein, was significantly increased in 3-h colostrum samples of the R2 group. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis revealed a significant increase in the expression of Toll-like receptor (TLR) 2, TLR4 and TLR9 in the thymus gland of female lambs in both undernourished groups. In conclusion, early life nutritional imbalances may impact on immune system function in later life due to programming effects.

Additional keywords: IgG, interleukin-10, Toll-like receptors.


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