• obesogenic diet;
  • mammary gland;
  • mid-pregnancy;
  • secretory epithelium;
  • milk protein;
  • rabbit


Alterations to the metabolic environment during puberty can impact future lactation efficiency and mammary tumorigenesis. During this study, we used a model of rabbits receiving an obesogenic diet (OD), starting before puberty and extending until mid-pregnancy. Three months later, the body weight of OD animals was significantly higher than that of controls and their mammary glands displayed a precocious and abnormal development at mid-pregnancy. OD mammary ducts were filled with dense products, while alveolar structures invaded most of the fat pad. The proportion of secretory epithelium was significantly higher in OD mammary tissue, which contained an abundant accumulation of milk proteins and lipids. In conclusion, an obesogenic diet started before puberty induced an accelerated development of the rabbit mammary gland, leading to an accumulation of secretory products at mid-pregnancy. These results support the critical influence of nutrition on mammary growth and differentiation, which may be deleterious to mammary development and subsequent lactation. Developmental Dynamics 240:347–356, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.