Limits to sustained energy intake III: effects of concurrent pregnancy and lactation in Mus musculus

M. S. Johnson, S. C. Thomson, John Roger Speakman

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To determine whether mice were limited in their capacity to absorb energy during late lactation, we attempted to increase the energy burden experienced by a group of female mice during late lactation by mating them at the postpartum oestrus, hence combining the energy demands of pregnancy and lactation. These experimental mice were therefore concurrently pregnant and lactating in their first lactation, and were followed through a normal second lactation. In a control group, females also underwent two lactations but sequentially, with the second mating after the first litter had been weaned. Maternal mass and food intake were measured throughout the first lactation, second pregnancy and second lactation. Maternal resting metabolic rate (RMR) was measured prior to the first mating and then at the peak of both the first and second lactations. Litter size and litter mass were also measured throughout both lactations. In the first lactation, experimental mice had a lower mass-independent RMR (F1,88=5.15, P=0.026) and raised significantly heavier pups (t=2.77, d.f.=32, P=0.0093) than the control mice. Experimental mice delayed implantation at the start of the second pregnancy. The extent of the delay was positively related to litter size during the first lactation (F1,19=4.58, P=0.046) and negatively related to mean pup mass (F1,19=5.78, P=0.027) in the first lactation. In the second lactation, the experimental mice gave birth to more (t=2.75, d.f.=38, P=0.0092) and lighter (t=-5.01, d.f.=38, P<0.0001) pups than did the controls in their second lactation. Maternal asymptotic daily food intake of control mice in the second lactation was significantly higher (t=-4.39, d.f.=37, P=0.0001) than that of the experimental mice and higher than that of controls during their first lactation. Despite the added burden on the experimental females during their first lactation, there was no increase in their food intake, which suggested that they might be limited by their capacity to absorb energy. However, control females appeared to be capable of increasing their asymptotic food intake beyond the supposed limits estimated previously, suggesting that the previously established limit was not a fixed central limitation on food intake. As RMR increased in parallel with the increase in food intake during the second lactation of control mice, the sustained energy intake remained at around 7.0xRMR.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1947-1956
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2001


  • energetics
  • maximal metabolic rate
  • sustained metabolic rate
  • pregnancy
  • lactation
  • reproduction
  • mouse
  • MICE


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