Background/Aims: Undernutrition reduces the hypothalamic ganglioside concentration. This may be attributed to some modifications in the contents of precursors of sphingolipid biosynthesis in undernourished rats. The present study evaluated the serine palmitoyl transferase activity (SPT; EC during the development of the rat hypothalamus. This work also shows the L-[3-14C]serine metabolic labeling of hypothalamic sphingolipids in normal and undernourished rats at weaning. Methods: The SPT activity was determined in microsomal fractions obtained from the hypothalamus of normal rats (diet: 25% protein) and pre- and postnatally undernourished rats (diet: 8% protein since pregnancy) at 21 days of gestational age and at 7, 14, and 21 days of postnatal life. Results: The enzymatic activity was lower in the hypothalamus of undernourished than in the hypothalamus of control rats since the 7th postnatal day. Incorporation of the precursor L-[3-14C]serine into sphingolipid fraction was lower in the hypothalamus of undernourished rats than in the hypothalamus of control rats on the 21st postnatal day which coincided with the age of the highest difference in SPT activity between normal and undernourished rats. Conclusion: These results indicate that undernutrition reduces the biosynthesis of the main sphingolipids during the period of brain growth spurt.

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