Dietary rumen-protected arginine and N-carbamylglutamate supplementation enhances fetal growth in underfed ewes

Reprod Fertil Dev. 2018 Jul;30(8):1116-1127. doi: 10.1071/RD17164.


The present study was conducted with an ovine intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) model to test the hypothesis that dietary rumen-protected l-arginine (RP-Arg) or N-carbamylglutamate (NCG) supplementation in underfed ewes is effective in enhancing fetal growth. Between Days 35 and 110 of pregnancy, 32 multiparous ewes carrying two fetuses were randomly assigned to one of four groups: a control (CG) group (n=8; 100% National Research Council (NRC) requirements for pregnant sheep), a nutrient-restricted (RG) group (n=8; fed 50% NRC requirements, and two treatment (ARG and NCG) groups (n=8 in each group; fed 50% NRC requirements supplemented with 20gday-1 RP-Arg or 5gday-1 NCG. All ewes were killed on Day 110 of pregnancy to determine fetal weight and fetal organ weights, and metabolites and hormones in fetal plasma, amino acid concentrations in the fetal liver and longissimus dorsi muscle, and expression of mRNAs in the somatotropic axis. Maternal and fetal bodyweight and the weight of most fetal organs expressed as a percentage of bodyweight increased in response to ARG and NCG compared with values for fetuses from RG ewes. Fetal plasma concentrations of insulin, insulin-like growth factor 1, total amino acids, lactate, thyroxine, and the thyroxine/tri-iodothyronine ratio were lower in fetuses from RG ewes compared with the other treatment groups, but concentrations of growth hormone, non-esterified fatty acids, and total cholesterol were greater in fetuses from RG ewes. Maternal RP-Arg or NCG supplementation increased concentrations of amino acids in fetal tissues and expression of mRNAs for somatotropic axis proteins in fetuses from RG ewes. These findings suggest that maternal RP-Arg and NCG supplementation of underfed ewes decreases fetal IUGR by improving metabolic homeostasis of fetal endocrinology, increasing the availability of amino acids in the fetal liver and longissimus dorsi muscle and affecting the expression of somatotropic axis genes.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / drug effects*
  • Animals
  • Arginine / administration & dosage*
  • Diet / veterinary
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Embryonic Development / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Glutamates / administration & dosage*
  • Malnutrition
  • Pregnancy
  • Sheep


  • Glutamates
  • N-carbamylglutamate
  • Arginine