Uncoupling-protein (UCP) mRNA expression is decreased to 15% of virgin control levels between days 10 and 15 of pregnancy, and remains at these low values during late pregnancy and lactation. Abrupt weaning of mid-lactating rats causes a slight but significant increase in UCP mRNA. Expression of mRNA for subunit II of cytochrome c oxidase (COII) decreased to half that of virgin control in late pregnancy and during lactation. Whereas COII mRNA expression is in step with the known modifications of brown-fat mitochondria content during the breeding cycle of the rat, UCP mRNA expression appears to be diminished much earlier than the mitochondrial proton-conductance-pathway activity. On the other hand, the reactivity of brown fat to increase expression of UCP and COII mRNAs in response to acute cold or noradrenaline treatment is not impaired during lactation.

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