Limits to sustained energy intake. XVII. Lactation performance in MF1 mice is not programmed by fetal number during pregnancy

Osei A. Duah, Kweku A. Monney, Catherine Hambly, Elzbieta Krol, John R. Speakman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Several studies have suggested that lactation performance may be programmed by the number of fetuses during pregnancy, whereas other studies indicate that processes during lactation are more important. As gestation litter size and litter size in lactation are usually strongly correlated, separating the roles of pregnancy and lactation in lactation performance is difficult. To break this link, we experimentally manipulated litter size of MF1 mice to five or 16 pups per litter by cross-fostering. Litter size and mass at birth were recorded on day 1 of lactation prior to litter size manipulation. Maternal body mass and food intake, litter size and litter mass were measured daily throughout. After weaning, the potential differential utilisation of body tissues of the mothers was investigated. Relationships between maternal mass and food intake, including asymptotic daily food intake at peak lactation, offspring traits and other maternal parameters suggested that the number of fetuses the females had carried during pregnancy had no effect on lactation performance. Litter mass increases depended only on maternal food intake, which was highly variable between individuals, but was independent of fetal litter size. The sizes of key organs and tissues like the liver and alimentary tract were not related to maximal food intake at peak lactation or to fetal litter size, but the masses of the pelage, mammary glands and retroperitoneal fat pad were. These data suggest that while growth of the mammary glands and associated structures may be initiated in gestation, and vary in relation to the number of placentas, the ultimate sizes and activities of the tissues depends primarily on factors during lactation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2339-2348
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • reproductive performance
  • lactation
  • litter size
  • growth
  • fetal programming
  • laboratory mouse
  • voles lasiopodomys-brandtii
  • mammary cell-proliferation
  • resting metabolic-rate
  • thrice-daily milking
  • mus musculus
  • food-intake
  • laboratory mice
  • peromyscus-maniculatus
  • compensatory growth
  • sigmodon-hispidus


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