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Pediatr Res. 2003 Jul;54(1):83-90. Epub 2003 Mar 19.

Dietary protein restriction in pregnancy induces hypertension and vascular defects in rat male offspring.

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Centre for Fetal Origins of Adult Disease, Princess Anne Hospital, Coxford Road, Southampton SO16 5YA, U.K.


It is established that dietary protein restriction of pregnant rats results in their offspring developing hypertension. However, to date no studies have investigated peripheral vascular function of offspring using the low protein model. Therefore, the aim of the study was to assess isolated resistance artery function from adult male offspring of control (C, 18% casein) and protein-restricted (PR, 9% casein) pregnant dams at two different ages. The birthweight of PR offspring did not significantly differ from that of C offspring. Systolic blood pressure was significantly elevated in PR compared with C (p < 0.05). Maximal vascular contraction to phenylephrine and the thromboxane analog U46619 were similar in C and PR offspring at postnatal d 87 and 164. Relaxation induced by the endothelium-dependent vasodilators acetylcholine or bradykinin was significantly reduced in the PR group (p < 0.05). Relaxation to the endothelium-independent vasodilator sodium nitroprusside and phosphodiesterase type 3 inhibitor cilostamide was less in the PR offspring compared with C (p < 0.01). Dietary protein restriction in pregnancy induces hypertension and vascular dysfunction in male offspring. Abnormalities in the nitric oxide-cGMP pathway may explain the defect in endothelium-dependent and -independent relaxation. Reduced vasodilation may be a potential mechanism underlying the elevated systolic blood pressure observed in this model.

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