Life-long protein malnutrition in the rat (Rattus norvegicus) results in altered patterns of craniofacial growth and smaller individuals

Shannon L. Lobe, Marica C. Bernstein, Rebecca Z. German

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Dietary protein is a limiting factor in mammalian growth, significantly affecting the non-linear trajectories of skeletal growth. Young females may be particularly vulnerable to protein malnutrition if the restriction is not lifted before they become reproductive. With such early malnutrition, limited amino acids would be partitioned between two physiological objectives, successful reproduction vs. continued growth. Thus, the consequences of protein malnutrition could affect more than one generation. However, few studies have quantified these cross-generational effects. Our objective was to test for differences in skeletal growth in a second generation of malnourished rats compared with rats malnourished only post-weaning, the first generation and with controls. In this longitudinal study we modelled the growth of 22 craniofacial measurements with the logistic Gompertz equation, and tested for differences in the equation's parameters among the diet groups. The female offspring of post-weaning malnourished dams did not catch up in size to the first generation or to controls, although certain aspects of their craniofacial skeleton were less affected than others. The second generation's growth trajectories resembled the longer and slower growth of the first malnourished generation. There was a complex interaction between developmental processes and early nutritional environment, which affected variation of adult size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)795-812
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Body size
  • Craniofacial skeleton
  • Nutrition
  • Ontogeny
  • Variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Anatomy


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