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Thermal and respiratory control in young rats exposed to cold during postnatal development.

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Department of Physiology, McGill University, 3655 Promenade Sir William Osler, Que., H3G 1Y6, Montreal, Canada.


We questioned to what extent sustained increases in metabolic rate during the neonatal period may influence the development of thermal and respiratory control. Male rats were exposed to cold (14 degrees C) for the first 3 weeks, which increased metabolic rate with small effects on body growth. Measurements were performed at 1 month of age, when the body weight of the Cold group averaged approximately 88% of Controls. In Cold rats, the concentration of the uncoupling protein of the brown adipose tissue was increased. Acute exposures to different ambient temperatures (5, 15, 25 and 35 degrees C) provoked changes in body temperature similar in Cold and in Control rats. At these temperatures, small differences in the absolute values of oxygen consumption (Vdot;(O(2))) between the two groups could be explained by the differences in body weight. Hematocrit and lung weight of Cold rats were as in Controls, but the lung protein-DNA ratio was increased because of a drop in lung cellularity. The resting ventilation-oxygen consumption ratio (Vdot;(E)/Vdot;(O(2))) was similar between Cold and Controls. Also the changes in Vdot;(O(2)) and Vdot;(E) during acute hypoxia (10% O(2)) or hypercapnia (5% CO(2)), and the corresponding hyperventilatory responses (increases in Vdot;(E)/Vdot;(O(2))) did not significantly differ between the two groups. In conclusion, in the rat, the increased metabolic requirements caused by cold exposure during the early postnatal phases improved the thermogenic capacity, while having negligible impact on the development of respiratory control.

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