The possible effect of altered maternal nutrition on fetal prolactin (PRL) secretion and the possible presence of a diurnal rhythm in fetal PRL secretion has been investigated in 11 fetuses aged between 132 and 140 days of gestation. Fetal PRL levels in 4 of 5 ewes fed once a day were high (> 40 ng/ml) and exhibited a distinct diurnal rhythm in PRL secretion. Fetal PRL levels in those fetuses where ewes fed 4-hourly (n = 6) were all low (< 10 ng/ml) and did not exhibit a diurnal rhythm. This study suggests that frequent maternal feeding results in low fetal PRL concentrations and that maternal undernutrition results in high fetal PRL levels that exhibit a distinct diurnal rhythm.

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