Limits to sustained energy intake. XIV. Heritability of reproductive performance in mice

Lobke M Vaanholt, Rachel E Sinclair, John R Speakman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Limits to sustained energy intake (SusEI) are important because they constrain many aspects of animal performance. Individual variability in SusEI may be imposed by genetic factors that are inherited from parents to offspring. Here, we investigated heritability of reproductive performance in MF1 mice. Food intake, milk energy output (MEO) and litter mass were measured in mothers (F0) and daughters (F1) that were raising litters of 10 pups. Cross-fostering was designed so that half of each litter consisted of biological offspring and the rest came from one unrelated female (i.e. fostered pups). Food intake increased linearly during early lactation and reached a plateau during late lactation (day 9-13, called the asymptotic food intake, FIAS, equivalent to SusEI). Parent-offspring regression showed that FIAS, MEO and litter mass were all positively and significantly related between mothers and their biological daughters, but no significant relationships were found between the same traits for mothers and fostered daughters. FIAS at peak lactation was significantly correlated to adult food intake and body mass when the mice were 6 months old and not lactating. In conclusion, a large part of the variation in FIAS could be explained by genetic variation or maternal effects in pregnancy whereas non-genetic maternal effects in lactation were negligible. As a consequence, biological daughters of mothers with high reproductive performance (i.e. high milk production and hence higher litter mass at weaning) had a better reproductive performance themselves, independent of the mother that raised them during lactation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2308-2315
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2013


  • animals
  • body weight
  • energy intake
  • energy metabolism
  • feeding behavior
  • female
  • lactation
  • mice
  • pregnancy
  • quantitative trait, heritable
  • reproduction
  • milk energy output
  • heritability


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