Effect of maternal under-nutrition on pup body weight and hypothalamic endocannabinoid levels

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2003 Feb;60(2):382-9. doi: 10.1007/s000180300031.


Dietary long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are known to influence brain levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide in newborn pigs and mice. Furthermore, endocannabinoids were shown to control pup suckling and body weight in mice, and food intake in adult rodents. Here we determined the effect of maternal under-nutrition during gestation, lactation, or both, on body weight, and on the levels of endocannabinoids and expression of cannabinoid CB1 receptors and fatty acid amide hydrolase in the hypothalamus of rat pups at weaning (21 days old) or adult rats (4 months old). Maternal under-nutrition resulted in a striking decrease in body weight of weaning rats, paralleled by a decrease in the hypothalamic levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide, but not of 2-arachidonoylglycerol. No significant change in the hypothalamic expression of either cannabinoid CB1 receptors or fatty acid amide hydrolase mRNA was detected in any of the three groups of weaned pups. The decrease in pup body weight and hypothalamic anandamide levels was not observable in 4-month-old rats from any of the three groups. These data suggest that maternal under-nutrition causes a decrease in hypothalamic anandamide levels and loss of body weight, and confirm a crucial role for endocannabinoid signalling in neonatal development.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Amidohydrolases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn*
  • Animals, Suckling
  • Body Weight*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Nutrition Disorders / complications*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Pregnancy, Animal*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug / metabolism


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug
  • Amidohydrolases
  • fatty-acid amide hydrolase