Protein-energy malnutrition halts hemopoietic progenitor cells in the G0/G1 cell cycle stage, thereby altering cell production rates

Braz J Med Biol Res. 2009 Jun;42(6):523-30. doi: 10.1590/s0100-879x2009000600008.


Protein energy malnutrition (PEM) is a syndrome that often results in immunodeficiency coupled with pancytopenia. Hemopoietic tissue requires a high nutrient supply and the proliferation, differentiation and maturation of cells occur in a constant and balanced manner, sensitive to the demands of specific cell lineages and dependent on the stem cell population. In the present study, we evaluated the effect of PEM on some aspects of hemopoiesis, analyzing the cell cycle of bone marrow cells and the percentage of progenitor cells in the bone marrow. Two-month-old male Swiss mice (N = 7-9 per group) were submitted to PEM with a low-protein diet (4%) or were fed a control diet (20% protein) ad libitum. When the experimental group had lost about 20% of their original body weight after 14 days, we collected blood and bone marrow cells to determine the percentage of progenitor cells and the number of cells in each phase of the cell cycle. Animals of both groups were stimulated with 5-fluorouracil. Blood analysis, bone marrow cell composition and cell cycle evaluation was performed after 10 days. Malnourished animals presented anemia, reticulocytopenia and leukopenia. Their bone marrow was hypocellular and depleted of progenitor cells. Malnourished animals also presented more cells than normal in phases G0 and G1 of the cell cycle. Thus, we conclude that PEM leads to the depletion of progenitor hemopoietic populations and changes in cellular development. We suggest that these changes are some of the primary causes of pancytopenia in cases of PEM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells / physiology*
  • Cell Cycle / physiology
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Colony-Forming Units Assay
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fluorouracil
  • G1 Phase / physiology*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Protein-Energy Malnutrition / blood
  • Protein-Energy Malnutrition / physiopathology*
  • Resting Phase, Cell Cycle / physiology*


  • Fluorouracil