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J Exp Biol. 2007 Feb;210(Pt 3):512-21.

Thermogenesis, food intake and serum leptin in cold-exposed lactating Brandt's voles Lasiopodomys brandtii.

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State Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Pest Insects and Rodents, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 25 Beisihuan Xilu, Zhongguancun, Haidian, Beijing 100080, China.


Lactation is the most energetically expensive period for mammals and is associated with increased metabolism and energy intake, but decreased thermogenic capacity. It is well known that small mammals increase both food intake and thermogenesis in the cold. The present study aimed to examine whether Brandt's voles Lasiopodomys brandtii could adjust energy intake and thermogenesis to accommodate simultaneous lactation and cold exposure. The voles were placed into two temperature treatments: warm (23+/-1 degrees C) and cold (5+/-1 degrees C). Animals at each temperature treatment were further divided into two groups: non-reproductive (NR) and lactating females. We found that lactating voles at peak lactation in the cold enhanced food intake by 2.6 g day(-1) compared with those in the warm, and increased uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) content in brown adipose tissue (BAT), to the same level as the cold-exposed NR females. Serum leptin levels decreased significantly during lactation and were positively correlated with body mass and fat mass. After correcting for the effects of body mass, residual serum leptin was negatively correlated with residual gross energy intake and residual RMR. In addition, residual serum leptin levels were positively correlated with UCP1 contents in the warm, but not in the cold. Together, these data suggest that lactating voles can increase thermogenic capacity and energy intake to meet the high energetic costs of simultaneous lactation and cold exposure. Further, serum leptin appears to be involved in the energy intake regulation and thermoregulation, but the thermoregulation in the cold may be mainly mediated by other factors.

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