Effects of mild vitamin a deficiency on lung maturation in newborn rats: a morphometric and morphologic study

Frey, Gaby; Egli, Evelyne; Chailley-Heu, Bernadette; Lelièvre-Pégorier, Martine; Burri, Peter H.; Bourbon, Jacques; Tschanz, Stefan A. (2004). Effects of mild vitamin a deficiency on lung maturation in newborn rats: a morphometric and morphologic study. Biology of the Neonate, 86(4), pp. 259-268. Karger 10.1159/000079983

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To evaluate the effects of a 60% vitamin A deficiency (VAD) on the two postnatal stages of lung development: alveolarization and microvascular maturation. Lungs from deficient rats were compared to age-matched controls.


Starting at 3 weeks before mating, female rats were maintained under a diet lacking vitamin A. Due to the slow depletion of the vitamin A liver stores the pregnant rats carried to term and delivered pups under mild VAD conditions. Mothers and offspring were then kept under the same diet what resulted in a mean reduction of vitamin A plasma concentration of about 60% vs. controls during the whole experimental period. Pups were sacrificed on days 4, 10 and 21 and their lungs fixed and analyzed by means of a combined morphologic and morphometric investigation at light and electron microscopic levels.


During the whole experiment, body weights of VAD animals were lower than controls with a significant decrease on day 10. On days 4, 10 and 21 the pulmonary structure was in a comparable gross morphologic state in both groups. Despite this morphologic normality, quantitative alterations in some functional parameters could be detected. On day 4, lung volume and the volume and surface area of air spaces were decreased, while the arithmetic mean barrier thickness and type 2 pneumocyte volume were increased in the VAD group. On day 21, some changes were again manifest mainly consisting in an augmentation of the vascularization and a decrease in interstitial volume in deficient animals.


Mild VAD causes no gross disturbances in the postnatal phases of lung development in rats. However, a body weight-related transient retardation of lung maturation was detectable in the first postnatal week. At 3 weeks, the VAD lungs showed a more mature vascular system substantiated by an increase in volume of both capillary volume and the large non-parenchymal vessels. In view of these quantitative alterations, we suspect that mild VAD deregulates the normal phases of body and lung growth, but does not induce serious functional impairments.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Anatomy
04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Anatomy > Anatomy

UniBE Contributor:

Tschanz, Stefan A.


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology








Beatrice Itten

Date Deposited:

13 Jan 2014 15:16

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:27

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Vitamin A, Vitamin A deficiency, Lung development, Lung maturation in newborn rats, Lung morphology, Lung morphometry, Light microscopic morphometry, Electron microscopic morphometry





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