GREGORY NEAL FULLER, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Several interactive parameters of protein-calorie malnutrition imposed during postnatal ontogeny on the myelination of rat brain wre investigated. Postnatal starvation depresses the rate of myelin protein synthesis to approximately the same extent in all major brain regions examined (cerebral cortex, cerebellum, striatum, hippocampus, hypothalamus, midbrain and medulla), indicating a relatively uniform reduction in myelination throughout the brain. Early starvation from birth through 8 days, as well as starvation occurring late, from 14 to 30 days, produced no lasting deficit in myelin accumulation. Starvation from birth through 14 days or from birth through 20 days produces lasting, significant myelin deficits in all brain regions when examined following ad libitum feeding to 60 days of age. These data, in combination with the metabolic studies of myelin synthesis, show that severe starvation occurring during the 2nd and 3rd weeks of postnatal life produces an immediate reduction in myelin synthesis, and that the subsequent deficit in myelin accumulation is irreversible by nutritional rehabilitation. With respect to the relative severity of nutritional restriction occurring during this "critical" interval of brain ontogeny, additional studies showed that mild undernourishment (producing less than 20 percent growth lag) produces no myelin deficit. There appears to be a threshold effect such that undernutrition producing a growth lag of between 20 to 30 percent first produces a measurable deficit. Increasingly severe regimens of nutritional restriction which produce approximately 30, 40 and 50 percent body weight lags result in initial myelin deficits of 25, 55 and 60 percent, respectively. Initial myelin deficits do not recover following nutritional rehabilitation, although myelin continues to increase in both normal and all undernourished populations. At the cellular level, severe postnatal nutritional restriction appears to depress both the initial synthesis of myelin precursor proteins (as demonstrated for proteolipid protein) as well as their subsequent assembly into myelin membrane. All of the findings of the present studies are consistent with a hypothetical model of undernutrition-induced brain hypomyelination in which the primary defect consists of a failure of oligodendroglia to myelinate a substantial percentage of axons, resulting in a greatly decreased ratio of myelinated to unmyelinated axons.

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Recommended Citation

FULLER, GREGORY NEAL, "MYELINATION IN UNDERNOURISHED RAT BRAIN" (1983). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI8325115.