J Neurosci Res. 1986 ; 15(2): 223-39.
Abnormal visual cortex development in the kitten associated with maternal dietary taurine deprivation.
We have examined the visual cortex of newborn and 8-week-old kittens born to mothers consuming a taurine-supplemented or taurine-free diet using the rapid Golgi technique. Kittens from taurine-supplemented mothers exhibited normal development of the visual cortex. Kittens from taurine-depleted mothers showed striking differences. In newborn kittens, neuroblasts are aggregated both at the ventricular and pial zones, having failed to migrate and differentiate normally. Eight weeks after birth, only few pyramidal and nonpyramidal neurons are found. Those present have heavily spined dendritic processes indicative of poor arborization. Protoplasmic astrocytes are represented by undifferentiated cellular masses. The taurine concentration in the cortex of such kittens is four- to fivefold smaller than in kittens from taurine-supplemented mothers. These results suggest that normal concentrations of taurine in visual cortex, as well as cerebellum, are required for normal ontogeny of neurons. Once such deficits are established in the prenatal and immediate postnatal period, they result in permanent abnormalities. These findings have clear implications for vegetarian women who intend to have children, since virtually no taurine is present in plants and vegetables.