Prenatal protein malnutrition (PPM) in rats causes enduring changes in brain and behavior including increased cognitive rigidity and decreased inhibitory control. A preliminary gene microarray screen of PPM rat prefrontal cortex (PFC) identified alterations in KCNJ3 (GIRK1/Kir3.1), a gene important for regulating neuronal excitability. Follow-up with polymerase chain reaction and Western blot showed decreased KCNJ3 expression in the PFC, but not hippocampus or brainstem. To verify localization of the effect to the PFC, baseline regional brain activity was assessed with (14)C-2-deoxyglucose. Results showed decreased activation in the PFC but not hippocampus. Together these findings point to the unique vulnerability of the PFC to the nutritional insult during early brain development, with enduring effects in adulthood on KCNJ3 expression and baseline metabolic activity.