Maternal high-fat diet associated with altered gene expression, DNA methylation, and obesity risk in mouse offspring

Madeline Rose Keleher, Rabab Zaidi, Shyam Shah, M. Elsa Oakley, Cassondra Pavlatos, Samir El Idrissi, Xiaoyun Xing, Daofeng Li, Ting Wang, James M. Cheverud

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78 Scopus citations


We investigated maternal obesity in inbred SM/J mice by assigning females to a high-fat diet or a low-fat diet at weaning, mating them to low-fat-fed males, cross-fostering the offspring to low-fat-fed SM/J nurses at birth, and weaning the offspring onto a high-fat or low-fat diet. A maternal high-fat diet exacerbated obesity in the high-fat-fed daughters, causing them to weigh more, have more fat, and have higher serum levels of leptin as adults, accompanied by dozens of gene expression changes and thousands of DNA methylation changes in their livers and hearts. Maternal diet particularly affected genes involved in RNA processing, immune response, and mitochondria. Between one-quarter and one-third of differentially expressed genes contained a differentially methylated region associated with maternal diet. An offspring high-fat diet reduced overall variation in DNA methylation, increased body weight and organ weights, increased long bone lengths and weights, decreased insulin sensitivity, and changed the expression of 3,908 genes in the liver. Although the offspring were more affected by their own diet, their maternal diet had epigenetic effects lasting through adulthood, and in the daughters these effects were accompanied by phenotypic changes relevant to obesity and diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0192606
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018


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