Non-technical summary An excess production of liver glucose is common in patients with diabetes, and animal studies show that female rats who consume a high-fat diet during pregnancy may give birth to offspring who are more likely to develop diabetes in adulthood. However, how this may be occurring remains poorly understood. The present study investigated the effect of a maternal high fat diet on fetal genes in the liver that control the production of glucose, and the potential regulatory mechanisms of these genes. We observed that pups of high fat-fed dams were heavier and had higher blood glucose at the time of delivery than pups of dams fed the control diet. While the high fat-fed dams themselves did not have increased blood glucose, their pups had higher expression of genes to make glucose in addition to elevated blood glucose. Our study demonstrates that exposure to a high fat diet during pregnancy programs the over-production of glucose in livers of offspring, which has the potential to lead to type II diabetes in childhood and adulthood.Abstract In insulin resistance and type II diabetes, there is an elevation of hepatic gluconeogenesis, which contributes to hyperglycaemia. Studies in experimental animals have provided evidence that consumption of high fat (HF) diets by female rats programs the progeny for glucose intolerance in adulthood, but the mechanisms behind the in utero programming remain poorly understood. The present study analysed the effect of a maternal HF diet on fetal gluconeogenic gene expression and potential regulation mechanism related to histone modifications. Dams were fed either a Control (C, 16% kcal fat) or a high-fat (HF, 45% kcal fat) diet throughout gestation. Livers of the offspring were collected on gestational day 21 and analysed to determine the consequences of a maternal HF diet on molecular markers of fetal liver gluconeogenesis. We demonstrated that offspring of HF-fed dams were significantly heavier and had significantly higher blood glucose levels at the time of delivery than offspring of dams fed the C diet. While maternal gluconeogenesis and plasma glucose were not affected by the HF diet, offspring of HF-fed dams had significantly higher mRNA contents of gluconeogenic genes in addition to the elevated plasma glucose. In addition to increased transcription rate, a gestational HF diet resulted in modifications of the Pck1 histone code in livers of offspring. Our results demonstrate that in utero exposure to HF diet has the potential to program the gluconeogenic capacity of offspring through epigenetic modifications, which could potentially lead to excessive glucose production and altered insulin sensitivity in adulthood.
Developmental bisphenol A (BPA) exposure increases adulthood hepatic steatosis with reduced mitochondrial function. To investigate potential epigenetic mechanisms behind developmental BPA-induced hepatic steatosis, pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were dosed with vehicle (oil) or BPA (100 μg/kg/day) from gestational day 6 until postnatal day (PND) 21. After weaning, offspring were either challenged with a high-fat (HF; 45% fat) or remained on a control (C) diet until PND110. From PND60 to 90, both BPA and HF diet increased the fat/lean ratio in males only, and the combination of BPA and HF diet appeared to cause the highest ratio. On PND110, Oil-HF, BPA-C, and BPA-HF males had higher hepatic lipid accumulation than Oil-C, with microvesicular steatosis being marked in the BPA-HF group. Furthermore, on PND1, BPA increased and modified hepatic triglycerides (TG) and free fatty acid (FFA) composition in males only. In PND1 males, BPA increased hepatic expression of FFA uptake gene Fat/Cd36, and decreased the expression of TG synthesis- and β-oxidation-related genes (Dgat, Agpat6, Cebpα, Cebpβ, Pck1, Acox1, Cpt1a, Cybb). BPA altered DNA methylation, histone marks (H3Ac, H4Ac, H3Me2K4, H3Me3K36), and decreased the binding of several transcription factors (Pol II, C/EBPβ, SREBP1) within the male Cpt1a gene, the key β-oxidation enzyme. In PND1 females, BPA only increased the expression of genes involved in FFA uptake and TG synthesis (Lpl, Fasn, and Dgat). These data suggest that developmental BPA exposure alters and reprograms hepatic β-oxidation capacity in males, potentially thorough the epigenetic regulation of genes, and further alters the response to a HF diet.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can disrupt fetal developmental processes during pregnancy, leading to long-term adverse outcomes in humans. A major source of exposure to EDCs, such as phthalates and bisphenols, is the food supply, primarily due to contamination from processing and packaging. Therefore, this review aimed to 1) review food-monitoring sources of phthalates and bisphenols, and 2) evaluate methodologies and provide future directions needed to establish EDC-limiting dietary recommendations in pregnancy. Using PubMed, 10 peer-reviewed studies were found on dietary predictors of EDC exposure in pregnancy, and all were selected for review. Use of plastic containers in pregnancy was associated with higher urinary phthalate metabolites, whereas canned food consumption was associated with higher urinary bisphenol A (BPA) concentrations. Foods and dietary patterns associated with healthier food choices (e.g., organic/grown/raised/caught foods, folic acid supplements, vegetarianism) were generally associated with lower urinary phthalate metabolite and BPA concentrations. Despite the many food-monitoring studies reporting high BPA and phthalate concentrations in various foods, the designs of most studies described here were not sufficiently robust to consistently detect associations of specific foods/food groups with phthalates and BPA. Given the limitations of currently available research, future studies should incorporate more valid questionnaires to accurately assess dietary EDC exposure, strive for concurrent diet and exposure assessment, and assess whether geographical and cultural differences modify associations of diet with gestational EDC exposures. Such progress will be critical for developing dietary recommendations that ensure the safety and health of pregnant women.
Overnutrition, such as a high-fat (HF) diet, is a feature followed by some in developed nations that leads to obesity and fatty liver disease. In rats, when fed a fat-high diet, some develop obesity (obesity prone, OP) while others display an obesity-resistant (OR) phenotype. The present study investigated the differences between OP and OR rats on their activation of hepatic cellular senescence pathways on a HF diet. Male OP and OR rats were fed a HF diet containing 45% kcal from fat for 13 wk, and livers were collected for analysis by quantitative real-time PCR, Western blot, and chromatin immunoprecipitation. OP rats were 41% heavier than OR rats, despite consuming the same amount of food. Triacylglycerol levels were increased significantly in both plasma and liver of OP rats. Gene analysis demonstrated a significant increase of both the amount and the transcription rates of p16(INK4a) and p21(Cip1) mRNA in OP rats. The increased p16(INK4a) and p21(Cip1) also caused a significant decrease in the level of phosphorylation of retinoblastoma protein. In OP rats, the increase of p16(INK4a) was associated with the higher acetylation levels of histone H4 at the p16(INK4a) promoter and coding region and lower methylation level of histone H3 lysine-27 in the p16(INK4a) coding region. The increase of p21(Cip1) was associated with increased acetylation of both histone H3 and H4 and decreased trimethylation of histone H3 lysine-27 at the p21(Cip1) promoter. In the p21(Cip1) coding region, dimethylation of histone H3 lysine-4 was significantly higher (P <0.05) in livers of OP rats compared with OR rats.
Placenta, as the sole transport mechanism between mother and fetus, links the maternal physical state and the immediate as well as lifelong outcomes of the offspring. The present study examined the consequences of maternal obesity on placental lipid accumulation and metabolism. Pregnant obesity-prone (OP) and obesity-resistant (OR) rat strains were fed a control diet throughout gestation. Placentas were collected on Gestational Day 21 for mRNA and oxidative stress analysis, and frozen placental sections were analyzed for fat accumulation as well as beta-catenin and Dickkopf homolog 1 (Xenopus laevis) (DKK1) localization. JEG3 trophoblast cells were cultured in vitro to determine the relationship between DKK1 and lipid accumulation. Maternal plasma and placental nonesterified fatty acids and triglycerides (TG) were elevated in OP dams. Placental Dkk1 mRNA content was 4-fold lower in OP placentas, and a significant increase was noted in beta-catenin accumulation as well as in mRNA content of fat transport and TG synthesis genes, including Ppard (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor delta), Slc27a1 (fatty acid transport protein 1; also known as Fatp1), Cd36 (cluster of differentiation 36; also known as fatty acid translocation [Fat]), Lipin1, and Lipin3. Significant lipid accumulation was found within the decidual zones in OP, but not OR, placentas, and thickness of the decidual and junctional zones was significantly smaller in OP than in OR placentas. Overexpression of DKK1 in JEG3 cells decreased lipid accumulation and mRNA content of PPARD, SLC27A1, CD36, LIPIN1, and LIPIN3. Our results demonstrate that DKK1 is regulating certain aspects of placental lipid metabolism through the WNT signaling pathway.
The placenta guides fetal growth and development. Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates are widespread environmental contaminants and endocrine disruptors, and the placental epigenetic response to these chemicals is an area of growing research interest. Therefore, our objective was to summarize research linking BPA or phthalate exposure to placental outcomes in human pregnancies, with a particular focus on epigenetic endpoints. In PubMed, studies were selected for review (without limiting start date and ending on 1 May 2018) if they reported any direct effects of BPA or phthalates on the placenta in humans. Collectively, available studies suggest that BPA and phthalate exposures are associated with changes to placental micro-RNA expression, DNA methylation, and genomic imprinting. Furthermore, several studies suggest that fetal sex may be an important modifier of placental outcomes in response to these chemicals. Studies in humans demonstrate associations of BPA and phthalate exposure with adverse placental outcomes. Moving forward, more studies should consider sex differences (termed “placental sex”) in the measured outcomes, and should utilize appropriate statistical approaches to assess modification by fetal sex. Furthermore, more consistent sample collection and molecular outcome assessment paradigms will be indispensable for making progress in the field. These advances, together with improved non-invasive tools for measuring placental function and outcomes across pregnancy, will be critical for understanding the mechanisms driving placental epigenetic disruption in response to BPA and phthalates, and how these disruptions translate into placental and fetal health.
Maternal high-fat (HF) diet feeding is associated with increased risk of developing metabolism-related diseases in adult offspring, including chronic liver disease. The present study tested the hypothesis that maternal HF diet leads to a decreased antioxidant defense capacity and causes cellular senescence in liver of adult offspring rats, which might increase risk of developing chronic liver disease. Timed-pregnant Sprague Dawley rats were fed a HF diet (45% of energy from fat) or a control (C) diet (16% of energy from fat) during gestation and lactation. The resulting offspring were fed a C diet after weaning to generate 2 offspring groups: C diet-fed offspring of dams fed C diet (C/C) and C diet-fed offspring of dams fed a HF diet (HF/C). At 12 wk of age, male rats were killed and samples were collected for analysis. Maternal HF diet significantly increased plasma TG and hepatic TBARS concentrations and the size of hepatic lipid droplets in offspring rats. The expression of antioxidant defense genes, such as glutathione peroxidase-1, Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (Sod1), paraoxonase enzymes (Pon1, Pon2, and Pon3), were significantly lower in the liver of HF/C pups than in C/C pups. The expression of Inhibitor of cyclin dependent Kinase 4a (p16INK4a), a marker of cellular senescence, and cyclooxygenase-2 (Cox2), a proinflammatory marker, was significantly higher in the HF/C offspring group than in the C/C offspring group. Western-blot analysis shows that cyclin D1 and phosphorylated retinoblastoma protein were significantly lower in HF/C offspring than in C/C offspring. The results provide the first evidence to our knowledge that maternal HF diet might alter antioxidant defense capacity and program the p16INK4a-dependent cellular senescence in the liver of adult offspring.
Placental efficiency is a predictor of fetal growth and development, which is also controlled by maternal gestational health and diet. The present study investigated the effects of a gestational low-protein diet on offspring growth capacity as well as the diet's contribution to altered expression of placental genes associated with the mammalian amino acid response (AAR) pathway. To assess these outcomes, timed-pregnant Sprague Dawley rats were fed a control (C) diet with 18% protein or a low-protein (LP) diet with 9% protein throughout gestation (Expt. 1) or throughout gestation and lactation (Expt. 2). Placentas were collected during natural delivery and quantitative RT-PCR and Western-blot analyses were performed to determine placental mRNA and protein levels. By the end of the lactation period, offspring of dams fed the LP diet had stunted growth in both experiments. mRNA expression of target genes in the AAR pathway, such as activating transcription factor-3 (Atf3), asparagine synthetase (Asns), and Sodium-dependent neutral amino acid transporter-2 (Snat2), was greater in placentas of rats fed the LP diet compared with controls, as were placental ATF4 and p-eIF2α protein levels. The increase in mRNA expression of AAR pathway-associated genes was correlated with the stunting of offspring growth (Atf3: R(2) = 0.32, P = 0.086; Asns: R(2) = 0.44, P < 0.05; Snat2: R(2) = 0.33, P = 0.084). Our study showed that the mammalian AAR pathway in placenta is upregulated by a maternal low-protein diet and this activation may act as a cue for the fetus to develop an adaptive response suited to their predicted postnatal environment, i.e. a more favorable phenotype for their survival.
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