To elucidate the mechanism of gut hypertrophy observed in rats artificially reared (AR) on milk formulas, the effects of four refined formulas with different ratios of casein (C) and whey protein (W), CW 2:8, CW 4:6, CW 6:4 and CW 8:2, on the gut growth of AR rats were examined. Four groups of pups were infused with each formula through an intragastric cannula from age 5 to 15 days. Each of the four milk formulas showed a different character in the stomach, such as no curd, very soft curd, soft curd and hard curd, in response to an increasing ratio of C:W. There were no significant differences in body weight gain among the AR groups and mother-reared (MR) controls. The stomach growth, in weight, of AR rats increased in response to the increasing ratios of C:W. In comparison with MR controls, hypertrophy of the stomach of AR rats appeared within the formulas with higher proportions of casein than whey protein (CW 6:4 and CW 8:2), but not those with lower proportions (CW 2:8 and CW 4:6). The growth of the small intestine was also related to the increasing ratio of C:W in the formulas. A similar pattern of hypertrophy in the hindgut was seen in AR rats. There was no association between hypertrophy of the gut in AR rats and plasma triiodothyronine. The present results clearly demonstrated that the gut growth of AR rat pups was directly influenced by the diet but not by AR per se, and that hard casein-curd in the stomach might be one cause of gut hypertrophy.

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