Maternal feed restriction during pregnancy in Wistar rats: Evaluation of offspring using classical and immunoteratology protocols

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Studies have revealed that impairment of the pregnant body weight reduces the fetal body weight and causes minor changes in skeletal development. The aim of the present study was to assess the effects of maternal feed restriction during pregnancy in offspring immune system development. Pregnant Wistar rats were distributed into 5 groups: 1 control in which dams received food ad libitum and 4 experimental groups in which dams were fed restricted amounts of rodent ration (16, 12, 9, or 6 g/rat/day) from the 6th to 17th gestation day. Teratogenicity was assessed using classical teratological evaluation and developmental immunotoxicology protocols. Maternal body weight gain, fetus weight, and placenta weight were reduced for feed-restricted females from the groups fed 12, 9, and 6 g/rat/day (p < 0.05). No pup mortality was observed immediately after cesarean sections among the groups, and no visceral or skeletal malformations were detected. An immunoteratological study revealed an increase in the relative weight of the thymus and an increase in the phorbol myristate-acetate solution-induced hydrogen peroxide release by inflammatory cells in 21-day-old pups. Alterations in the delayed-type hypersensitivity response and the humoral immune response against sheep red blood cells were observed in pups from feed-restricted mothers. Feed restriction in Wistar rats during organogenesis did not promote structural malformations but resulted in offspring with lower birth weights and promoted significant changes in the immune responses of the rat pups.

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