Programming of adult blood pressure by maternal protein restriction: Role of nephrogenesis

Lori L. Woods, Douglas A. Weeks, Ruth Rasch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

303 Scopus citations


Background. Modest maternal protein restriction leads to hypertension and a reduced number of glomeruli in adult male but not female offspring. This study determined whether a more severe protein restriction has equivalent effects on male and female rat offspring, and examined the role of nephrogenesis in this programming. Methods. Sprague-Dawley rats were fed a protein-restricted (5% protein) diet throughout (LLP), or during the first (LLP/NP) or second (NP/LLP) half of pregnancy. Controls ate a normal diet (NP, 19% protein). Adult offspring were chronically instrumented at 22 weeks; glomerular number and volume were estimated using stereologic techniques. Results. Mean arterial pressures in male offspring were significantly higher in LLP (136 ± 2 mm Hg) or NP/LLP (137 ± 2 mm Hg) than in LLP/NP (125 ± 1 mm Hg) or NP (125 ± 2 mm Hg). Moreover, the hypertension was salt-sensitive (increase of 16 ± 4 mm Hg in LLP on a high Na+ diet compared to 2 ± 2 mm Hg in NP). Glomerular number (per kidney) was reduced (15,400 ± 2,411 in LLP vs. 27,208 ± 1,534 in NP) but average individual glomerular volume was not different (1.98 ± 0.18106 μ3 in LLP vs. 2.01 ± 0.14 10 6 μ3 in NP). Female offspring showed qualitatively similar results. Conclusion. Severe maternal dietary protein restriction reduces glomerular number and programs for salt-sensitive adult hypertension in both female and male offspring. The window of sensitivity of adult blood pressure to prenatal protein restriction falls within the period of nephrogenesis in the rat. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that maternal protein restriction causes adult hypertension in the offspring through impairment of renal development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1339-1348
Number of pages10
JournalKidney International
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Fetal origins of adult disease
  • Gender
  • Glomerular filtration rate
  • Nephron number
  • Renal plasma flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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