Marginal zinc intake is common and leaves women particularly vulnerable to Zn deficiency due to increased demand for Zn as a consequence of reproduction. Zn deficiency during pregnancy and lactation has been associated with secondary affects on copper metabolism in the offspring; however, the underlying mechanisms are unknown. The effects of marginal maternal Zn intake on maternal and neonatal Cu metabolism were determined in rats. Plasma, milk and tissue Cu and Zn concentrations and plasma and milk ceruloplasmin (Cp) activity were measured in dams fed a control (CON, 25 mg Zn/kg diet) or a marginal Zn diet (ZD, 10 mg Zn/kg diet) and their suckling pups. There was no effect on maternal tissue Cu or Zn or milk Zn concentration; however, plasma Cp activity was higher in dams fed ZD, suggesting that Cp activity may be a useful marker for identifying marginal Zn status. Rats fed ZD had high mammary gland Ctr1, Atp7A and Atp7B levels, milk Cp activity and Cu concentration. Immunostaining and differential centrifugation indicated that ZD also altered Ctr1 and Atp7A localization in the mammary gland. Pups from dams fed ZD had higher small intestine Cu and lower plasma Cu than CON pups. These results suggest that marginal maternal Zn intake during pregnancy and lactation increase mammary gland Cu transporter levels and alter their localization, resulting in high milk Cu levels, possibly in response to transiently elevated plasma Cu levels. The combination of high milk Cu concentration and immature neonatal Cu transport exposes the suckling neonate to excess Cu; however, whether this occurs in humans is not yet known.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Nutrition and Dietetics