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Maternal low-quality protein diet exerts sex-specific effects on plasma amino acid profile and alters hepatic expression of methyltransferases in adult rat offspring

  • A. Akyol (a1), A. Kabasakal Cetin (a1), A. Gulec (a1), H. Dasgin (a1), A. Ayaz (a1) and I. Onbasilar (a2)...


Nutrition during pregnancy and lactation is a critical factor in the development of the offspring. Both protein content and source in maternal diet affect neonatal health, but the long-term effects of maternal low-quality protein diet on the offspring are less clear. This study aimed to examine the effects of maternal low-quality protein diet on offspring’s growth, development, circulating metabolites and hepatic expression of methyltransferases. Virgin Wistar rats were mated at 11 weeks of age. Dams were then maintained on either a chow diet with 20% casein as the control group (C), or a low-quality protein diet with 20% wheat gluten as the experimental group (WG) throughout gestation and lactation. After weaning, all offspring were fed a control chow diet until the age of 20 weeks. Male WG offspring had significantly lower body weight and energy intake, whereas female WG offspring had significantly higher body weight and energy intake when compared with controls. Early life exposure to WG diet had no significant effect on circulating metabolites. However, fasting insulin concentrations and homoeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance were decreased in WG male and female offspring. Maternal low-quality protein diet increased plasma aspartic acid, glutamic acid, histidine, cystathione and decreased lysine in male WG offspring. Conversely, the same amino acids were reduced in female WG offspring. Adult offspring exposed to WG diet had significantly upregulated hepatic DNMT3a and DNMT3b expressions. Our study showed that there were differential effects of maternal poor-quality protein diet upon adult offspring’s metabolism.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: A. Akyol, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty of Health Sciences, Hacettepe University, Sihhiye, Ankara 06100, Turkey. E-mail:


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Present address: The Rowett Institute, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB252ZD, UK.



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