Neonatal growth rate and development of mice raised on milk transgenically enriched with omega-3 fatty acids.

Research paper by Kathleen D KD Bongiovanni, Edward J EJ Depeters, Alison L AL Van Eenennaam

Indexed on: 02 Aug '07Published on: 02 Aug '07Published in: Pediatric Research


The n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) status of the neonatal brain has been associated with cognitive capability in mice. Previously, transgenic mice expressing the Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) n-3 fatty acid (FA) desaturase gene under the control of a lactation-induced mammary gland promoter were found to produce milk containing significantly elevated levels of alpha-linolenic (ALA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA) acid. In this study, the preweaning growth rate and development of mouse pups consuming elevated n-3 PUFA milk produced by transgenic dams were evaluated using the Wahlsten observational test battery and the object novelty preference test. Brains were collected at weaning and analyzed for FA composition. Pups nursed on transgenic dams had earlier eye opening, higher visual placement scores, and 1.6-fold more docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in their brains compared with pups raised on wildtype dams. There was no significant effect of milk treatment (transgenic versus control) on other developmental parameters or novelty preference behavior. The pups consuming the elevated n-3 PUFA transgenic milk had slower preweaning growth rates such that pups reared on wildtype dams producing control milk were heavier than pups reared on transgenic dams producing high n-3 PUFA milk by postnatal day 18. This transgenic model enables the provision of a high n-3 PUFA lactational environment independent of maternal diet or gestational FA status.