Wistar female rats fed, since mating, with diets lacking either methionine, replaced in this case by homocystine (HF), or folic acid (MO), or both (HO). With diets lacking either one of the two factors, fetal weights remained in the range of the controls. When both factors were absent from the diet (HO), underweight fetuses were observed on day 20. In the offspring of folic acid-deficient mothers (MO), only folyloligoglutamates were lowered; total ones remained near control level. Switching HO females to a folic acid-supplemented diet from day 16 to 20 of pregnancy restored fetal weight and folates to the control level. The activity of folico-dependent enzymes of the whole fetal body or liver varied in parallel to fetal weight. We conclude from these data that: (1) methionine has a protective effect on folates in MO groups; (2) when folic acid is present in a diet containing homocystine but no methionine (MF), endogenous methionine synthesis is sufficient to cover maternal and fetal needs; (3) when the vitamin is also withdrawn (HO), methionine synthesis is no more adequate and fetal underdevelopment appears.

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