Effects of prolonged maternal ethanol consumption were studied on hepatic lipid content, on the rates of fatty acid synthesis and on the activities of enzymes involved in fatty acid synthesis in the livers of foetal and suckling neonatal rats. Prolonged maternal ethanol consumption resulted in a significant increase in the contents of hepatic total lipids, triacylglycerols and plasma unesterified fatty acids in foetal and neonatal rats. Studies in vitro with 3H2O showed that maternal ethanol consumption did not result in a significant change in its rate of incorporation into lipid fractions of foetal and neonatal livers. The rates of fatty acid synthesis showed a pronounced decrease immediately after birth, compared with the foetal stage, but increased in the adult animals. On the other hand, the highest rates of lipid oxidation were observed in the neonatal stage. Maternal ethanol consumption resulted in a significant decrease in the rates of [14C]palmitate oxidation to 14CO2 by both the foetal and neonatal livers. Maternal ethanol consumption did not result in an increase in the activities of any of the lipid-synthesizing enzymes tested throughout the period of development. Although increased fatty acid synthesis does not seem to be the mechanism for the accumulation of these lipids, decreased oxidation of the lipids may be partly responsible for the lipid accumulation.

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