Supplementary prenatal copper increases plasma triiodothyronine and brown adipose tissue uncoupling protein-1 gene expression but depresses thermogenesis in newborn lambs. Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE: We tested the hypothesis that increasing dietary copper (Cu) to gravid ewes would enhance brown adipose tissue (BAT) thermogenesis in their offspring. METHODS: Twin-bearing ewes were assigned on d 70 of gestation to diets containing 3, 10, or 20 ppm dietary Cu (n = 8 per group). Twin lambs were assigned at birth to a cold (6C) or warm (28C) environmental chamber for 48 h. Blood was collected from ewes and from lambs and perirenal BAT was collected after 48 h in the environmental chambers. RESULTS: Prenatal Cu exposure increased ewe plasma triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine concentration (T4) (p > 0.01) but prenatal Cu exposure had no effect on lamb plasma concentrations of T3, T4, glucose, or nonesterified fatty acid concentration (p 0.08). The high level of prenatal Cu exposure depressed 48-h rectal temperature (p = 0.03). Cold exposure decreased BAT norepinephrine (NE) and increased BAT dopamine (p 0.01), but prenatal Cu exposure had no effect on BAT cytochrome C oxidase activity or BAT NE or dopamine (p 0.07). However, BAT of lambs from high-Cu ewes maintained higher uncoupling protein-1 (UCP1) gene expression than BAT of lambs from low- and medium-Cu ewes following warm or cold exposure in environmental chambers (p = 0.02). Cold exposure caused near depletion of BAT lipid by 48 h (p > 0.001), increased BAT cytochrome c oxidase activity (p > 0.01), and depressed plasma fatty acid concentrations (p > 0.001). CONCLUSION: Although prenatal Cu exposure increased BAT UCP1 expression during warm and cold exposure, prenatal cold Cu exposure depressed 48-h rectal temperature. Cold exposure decreased BAT lipid content by over 80% and decreased lamb plasma fatty acid concentration by over 40%, indicating that fuel reserves for thermogenesis were nearly depleted by 48 h of cold exposure.

published proceedings

  • Asian-Australas J Anim Sci

author list (cited authors)

  • Smith, S. B., Sweatt, C. R., & Carstens, G. E.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Smith, Stephen B||Sweatt, Craig R||Carstens, Gordon E

publication date

  • January 2020