Limits to sustained energy intake. XXII. Reproductive performance of two selected mouse lines with different thermal conductance

Aqeel H. Al Jothery, Elzbieta Krol, James Hawkins, Aurore Chetoui, Alexander Saint-Lambert, Yuko Gamo, Suzanne C. Shaw, Teresa Valencak, Lutz Buenger, William G. Hill, Lobke M. Vaanholt, Catherine Hambly, John R. Speakman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Maximal sustained energy intake (SusEI) appears limited, but the factors imposing the limit are disputed. We studied reproductive performance in two lines of mice selected for high and low food intake (MH and ML, respectively), and known to have large differences in thermal conductance (29% higher in the MH line at 21 degrees C). When these mice raised their natural litters, their metabolisable energy intake significantly increased over the first 13 days of lactation and then reached a plateau. At peak lactation, MH mice assimilated on average 45.3% more energy than ML mice (222.9 +/- 7.1 and 153.4 +/- 12.5 kJ day(-1), N=49 and 24, respectively). Moreover, MH mice exported on average 62.3 kJ day(-1) more energy as milk than ML mice (118.9 +/- 5.3 and 56.6 +/- 5.4 kJ day(-1), N=subset of 32 and 21, respectively). The elevated milk production of MH mice enabled them to wean litters (65.2 +/- 2.1 g) that were on average 50.2% heavier than litters produced by ML mothers (43.4 +/- 3.0 g), and pups that were on average 27.2% heavier (9.9 +/- 0.2 and 7.8 +/- 0.2 g, respectively). Lactating mice in both lines had significantly longer and heavier guts compared with non-reproductive mice. However, inconsistent with the 'central limit hypothesis', the ML mice had significantly longer and heavier intestines than MH mice. An experiment where the mice raised litters of the opposing line demonstrated that lactation performance was not limited by the growth capacity of offspring. Our findings are consistent with the idea that the SusEI at peak lactation is constrained by the capacity of the mothers to dissipate body heat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3718-3732
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number20
Early online date11 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

We are grateful to the animal house staff who looked after the mice. Peter
Thomson provided invaluable technical support for the isotope analysis.

The mice were selected under grants from BBSRC to W.G.H. and L.B., who was additionally supported by Cotswold International. A.H.A.J. was supported by a scholarship from the Iraqi government. A.C. and A.S.L. were supported by the Erasmus program and Y.G. was supported by a scholarship from the international rotary foundation. The work was also partly funded by research grants from NERC to J.R.S. and C.H. and from BBSRC to J.R.S. and E.K. J.R.S. was also supported by a 1000 Talents professorship during the final phase of the work.


  • artificial selection
  • cross-fostering
  • daily energy expenditure
  • heat dissipation limit
  • milk production
  • lactation
  • doubly-labeled water
  • dissipation limitation hypothesis
  • resting metabolic-rate
  • voles lasiopodomys-brandtii
  • carbon-dioxide production
  • lactating European hares
  • mus-musculus
  • laboratory mice
  • food-intake
  • divergent selection


Dive into the research topics of 'Limits to sustained energy intake. XXII. Reproductive performance of two selected mouse lines with different thermal conductance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this