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Recent studies implicate maternal gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) in differential methylation of infant DNA. Folate and vitamin B12 play a role in DNA methylation, and these vitamins may also influence GDM risk. The aims of this study were to determine folate and vitamin B12 status in obese pregnant women and investigate associations between folate and vitamin B12 status, maternal dysglycaemia and neonatal DNA methylation at cytosine-phosphate-guanine sites previously observed to be associated with dysglycaemia. Obese pregnant women who participated in the UK Pregnancies Better Eating and Activity Trial were included. Serum folate and vitamin B12 were measured at the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) visit. Cord blood DNA methylation was assessed using the Infinium MethylationEPIC BeadChip. Regression models with adjustment for confounders were used to examine associations. Of the 951 women included, 356 (37.4%) were vitamin B12 deficient, and 44 (4.6%) were folate deficient. Two-hundred and seventy-one women (28%) developed GDM. Folate and vitamin B12 concentrations were not associated with neonatal DNA methylation. Higher folate was positively associated with 1-h plasma glucose after OGTT (β = 0.031, 95% CI 0.001–0.061, p = 0.045). There was no relationship between vitamin B12 and glucose concentrations post OGTT or between folate or vitamin B12 and GDM. In summary, we found no evidence to link folate and vitamin B12 status with the differential methylation of neonatal DNA previously observed in association with dysglycaemia. We add to the evidence that folate status may be related to maternal glucose homoeostasis although replication in other maternal cohorts is required for validation.
Obesity is an excess of adipose tissue (AT) and is linked with increased inflammation that enhances risk of type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The BIOCLAIMS study assessed the effect of obesity on AT fatty acid composition and gene expression, and the responses of these to chronic omega-3 FA supplementation.
Materials and methods:
AT biopsies were collected pre- and post-12 week supplementation with 1.1 g EPA + 0.8 g DHA/day or corn oil. The composition of FA in the total lipid extract of AT from 37 normal-weight and 44 obese subjects was assessed by gas chromatography, whole AT transcriptome from 10 normal-weight and 10 obese subjects was assessed by RNA-Sequencing, and selected gene expression in AT of 27 normal-weight and 38 obese subjects was assessed by qRT-PCR.
789 AT genes were differentially expressed (623 upregulated, 175 downregulated) in obesity compared to normal-weight (FC > 2, P < 0.05). Differentially expressed genes included EGFL6, MMP-7 and -9, 5-LOX, WNT3 and WNT10B, DACT2, CNR1, SLC27A2 and PLA2G7, and were associated with immune and inflammatory response, cell proliferation, activation and movement, Wnt signalling, remodelling and expansion, and lipid incorporation and degradation.
Chronic supplementation with EPA + DHA increased the concentration of AT EPA, DPA and DHA in normal-weight subjects (P < 0.01), and EPA in obese subjects (P = 0.006). EPA + DHA modulated the expression of 26 genes (14 upregulated, 12 downregulated) in normal-weight subjects and 7 genes (3 upregulated, 5 downregulated) in obese subjects (FC > 2, P < 0.05). Of note, EPA + DHA downregulated IGLV1-44, IGLV1-51, PROK2, and TREM1 in normal weight subjects (P < 0.05), and IGLV1-44, IGLV1-47, DACT2 and IDO1 obese subjects (P < 0.05). Genes of note upregulated by EPA + DHA included KCNH2, GCGR, SLC36A2 and FOXC2 in normal-weight subjects, and MAB21L1, LRRTM4, and COX-2, in obese subjects. Differentially expressed genes were associated with a decrease in complement activation and immunoglobulin secretion, negative regulation of cell proliferation, and positive regulation of remodelling, amino acid and glucose transport, and COX pathway metabolite synthesis.
These data indicate an altered AT transcription profile and gene expression in obesity suggesting enhanced immune and inflammatory response, tissue expansion and remodelling, and changes to lipid metabolism, as well as dysregulation in response to supplementary EPA + DHA at a gene expression level. EPA + DHA are able to modulate AT gene expression predominantly associated with reducing immune response, but obesity may involve resistance to the effects on tissue remodelling and nutrient transport.
EPA and DHA are required for normal cell function and can also induce health benefits. Oily fish are the main source of EPA and DHA for human consumption. However, food choices and concerns about the sustainability of marine fish stocks limit the effectiveness of dietary recommendations for EPA + DHA intakes. Seed oils from transgenic plants that contain EPA + DHA are a potential alternative source of EPA and DHA. The present study investigated whether dietary supplementation with transgenic Camelina sativa seed oil (CSO) that contained EPA and DHA was as effective as fish oil (FO) in increasing EPA and DHA concentrations when consumed as a dietary supplement in a blinded crossover study. Healthy men and women (n 31; age 53 (range 20–74) years) were randomised to consume 450 mg/d EPA + DHA provided either as either CSO or FO for 8 weeks, followed by 6 weeks washout and then switched to consuming the other test oil. Fasting venous blood samples were collected at the start and end of each supplementation period. Consuming the test oils significantly (P < 0·05) increased EPA and DHA concentrations in plasma TAG, phosphatidylcholine and cholesteryl esters. There were no significant differences between test oils in the increments of EPA and DHA. There was no significant difference between test oils in the increase in the proportion of erythrocyte EPA + DHA (CSO, 12 %; P < 0·0001 and FO, 8 %; P = 0·02). Together, these findings show that consuming CSO is as effective as FO for increasing EPA and DHA concentrations in humans.
EPA and DHA are important components of cell membranes. Since humans have limited ability for EPA and DHA synthesis, these must be obtained from the diet, primarily from oily fish. Dietary EPA and DHA intakes are constrained by the size of fish stocks and by food choice. Seed oil from transgenic plants that synthesise EPA and DHA represents a potential alternative source of these fatty acids, but this has not been tested in humans. We hypothesised that incorporation of EPA and DHA into blood lipids from transgenic Camelina sativa seed oil (CSO) is equivalent to that from fish oil. Healthy men and women (18–30 years or 50–65 years) consumed 450 mg EPA + DHA from either CSO or commercial blended fish oil (BFO) in test meals in a double-blind, postprandial cross-over trial. There were no significant differences between test oils or sexes in EPA and DHA incorporation into plasma TAG, phosphatidylcholine or NEFA over 8 h. There were no significant differences between test oils, age groups or sexes in postprandial VLDL, LDL or HDL sizes or concentrations. There were no significant differences between test oils in postprandial plasma TNFα, IL 6 or 10, or soluble intercellular cell adhesion molecule-1 concentrations in younger participants. These findings show that incorporation into blood lipids of EPA and DHA consumed as CSO was equivalent to BFO and that such transgenic plant oils are a suitable dietary source of EPA and DHA in humans.
Non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as type-2 diabetes and CVD are now highly prevalent in both developed and developing countries. Evidence from both human and animal studies shows that early-life nutrition is an important determinant of NCD risk in later life. The mechanism by which the early-life environment influences future disease risk has been suggested to include the altered epigenetic regulation of gene expression. Epigenetic processes regulate the accessibility of genes to the cellular proteins that control gene transcription, determining where and when a gene is switched on and its level of activity. Epigenetic processes not only play a central role in regulating gene expression but also allow an organism to adapt to the environment. In this review, we will focus on how both maternal and paternal nutrition can alter the epigenome and the evidence that these changes are causally involved in determining future disease risk.
The effect of folic acid (FA) on breast cancer (BC) risk is uncertain. We hypothesised that this uncertainty may be due, in part, to differential effects of FA between BC cells with different phenotypes. To test this we investigated the effect of treatment with FA concentrations within the range of unmetabolised FA reported in humans on the expression of the transcriptome of non-transformed (MCF10A) and cancerous (MCF7 and Hs578T) BC cells. The total number of transcripts altered was: MCF10A, seventy-five (seventy up-regulated); MCF7, twenty-four (fourteen up-regulated); and Hs578T, 328 (156 up-regulated). Only the cancer-associated gene TAGLN was altered by FA in all three cell lines. In MCF10A and Hs578T cells, FA treatment decreased pathways associated with apoptosis, cell death and senescence, but increased those associated with cell proliferation. The folate transporters SLC19A1, SLC46A1 and FOLR1 were differentially expressed between cell lines tested. However, the level of expression was not altered by FA treatment. These findings suggest that physiological concentrations of FA can induce cell type-specific changes in gene regulation in a manner that is consistent with proliferative phenotype. This has implications for understanding the role of FA in BC risk. In addition, these findings support the suggestion that differences in gene expression induced by FA may involve differential activities of folate transporters. Together these findings indicate the need for further studies of the effect of FA on BC.
It is well established that genotype plays an important role in the ageing process. However, recent studies have suggested that epigenetic mechanisms may also influence the onset of ageing-associated diseases and longevity. Epigenetics is defined as processes that induce heritable changes in gene expression without a change in the DNA nucleotide sequence. The major epigenetic mechanisms are DNA methylation, histone modification and non-coding RNA. Such processes are involved in the regulation of tissue-specific gene expression, cell differentiation and genomic imprinting. However, epigenetic dysregulation is frequently seen with ageing. Relatively little is known about the factors that initiate such changes. However, there is emerging evidence that the early life environment, in particular nutrition, in early life can induce long-term changes in DNA methylation resulting in an altered susceptibility to a range of ageing-associated diseases. In this review, we will focus on the changes in DNA methylation that occur during ageing; their role in the ageing process and how early life nutrition can modulate DNA methylation and influence longevity. Understanding the mechanisms by which diet in early life can influence the epigenome will be crucial for the development of preventative and intervention strategies to increase well-being in later life.
Maternal folic acid (FA) supplementation is well recognised to protect against neural tube defects. Folate is a critical cofactor in one-carbon metabolism involved in the epigenetic regulation of transcription that underpins development. Thus, it is possible that maternal FA supplementation may have additional, unforeseen persistent effects in the offspring. This is supported by the modification by maternal supplementation with one-carbon donors and FA of the epigenetic regulation of offspring phenotype in mutant mice. The present article reviews studies in human subjects and experimental animals of the effect of maternal FA intake and phenotypic outcomes in the offspring. Maternal FA intake was associated with a short-term increased incidence of allergy-related respiratory impairment in children and multigenerational respiratory impairment in rats. Higher maternal folate status during pregnancy was associated positively with insulin resistance in 6-year-olds. In rats, maternal FA supplementation modified hepatic metabolism and vascular function through altered transcription, in some cases underpinned by epigenetic changes. FA supplementation in pregnant rats increased mammary tumorigenesis, but decreased colorectal cancer in the offspring. Maternal FA supplementation decreased a range of congenital cardiac defects in children. These findings support the view that maternal FA supplementation induces persistent changes in a number of phenotypic outcomes in the offspring. However, the number of studies is limited and insufficient to indicate a need to change current recommendations for FA intake in pregnancy. Nevertheless, such effects should be investigated thoroughly in order to support firm conclusions about the risk of unanticipated long-term negative effects of maternal FA supplementation in humans.
Environmental exposures throughout the life course, including nutrition, may induce phenotypic and epigenetic changes. There is limited information about how timing affects the nature of such effects induced by a specific nutritional exposure. We investigated the effect of increased exposure to folic acid before birth or during the juvenile–pubertal period in rats on the epigenetic regulation of glucose homeostasis. Rats were fed either a folic acid-adequate (AF; 1 mg/kg feed) or a folic acid-supplemented (FS; 5 mg/kg feed) diet from conception until delivery and then an AF diet during lactation. Juvenile rats were fed either the AF or the FS diet from weaning for 28 d and then an AF diet. Liver and blood were collected after a 12 h fast between postnatal days 84 and 90. Maternal FS diet increased plasma glucose concentration significantly (P < 0·05) in females, but not in males. Post-weaning FS diet decreased glucose concentration significantly in females, but increased glucose concentration in males. There were no effects of the FS diet on phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK) mRNA expression in males, while the pattern of expression was related to plasma glucose concentration in females. The FS diet induced specific changes in the methylation of individual CpG in females, but not in males, which were related to the time of exposure. Methylation of CpG − 248 increased the binding of CCAAT-enhancer-binding protein β to the PEPCK promoter. Together, these findings show that both the period during the life course and sex influence the effect of increased exposure to folic acid on the epigenetic regulation of PEPCK and glucose homeostasis.
The rapid increase in the incidence of chronic non-communicable diseases over the past two decades cannot be explained solely by genetic and adult lifestyle factors. There is now considerable evidence that the fetal and early postnatal environment also strongly influences the risk of developing such diseases in later life. Human studies have shown that low birth weight is associated with an increased risk of CVD, type II diabetes, obesity and hypertension, although recent studies have shown that over-nutrition in early life can also increase susceptibility to future metabolic disease. These findings have been replicated in a variety of animal models, which have shown that both maternal under- and over-nutrition can induce persistent changes in gene expression and metabolism within the offspring. The mechanism by which the maternal nutritional environment induces such changes is beginning to be understood and involves the altered epigenetic regulation of specific genes. The demonstration of a role for altered epigenetic regulation of genes in the developmental induction of chronic diseases raises the possibility that nutritional or pharmaceutical interventions may be used to modify long-term cardio-metabolic disease risk and combat this rapid rise in chronic non-communicable diseases.
The state of stress may be produced in the body by many causes, but the hypothalamopituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis plays a central coordinating role in the response to both internal and external stressors, substantially mediated through the release of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) and arginine-vasopressin (AVP). At every stage healthy development presumes the ready availability of a suitable mix of nutrients to support the current needs for cellular growth, elaboration, maturation, function and replication. Placental function plays a critical determining role in the process of fetal programming and the determination of the fetal phenotype. The changes in growth are associated with long-term alterations in behaviour, circulating levels of glucocorticoids and the set of the HPA axis in the offspring. Prepregnancy obesity is increasingly common, and despite the reality of obesity-related infertility assisted technologies enable more to become pregnant.
Feeding pregnant rats a protein-restricted (PR) diet induces altered expression of candidate genes in the liver of the adult offspring, which can be prevented by supplementation of the PR diet with folic acid (PRF). We investigated the effect of maternal nutrition during pregnancy on the liver transcriptome in their adult male offspring. Pregnant rats were fed control, PR or PRF diets. Male offspring were killed on day 84. The liver transcriptome was analysed by microarray (six livers per maternal dietary group) followed by post hoc analysis of relative mRNA levels and gene ontology. These results were confirmed for selected genes by real-time RT-PCR. There were 311 genes that differed significantly ( ≥ 1·5-fold change; P < 0·05) between PR offspring (222 increased) and control offspring, while 191 genes differed significantly between PRF offspring (forty-five increased) compared with offspring of control dams. There were sixteen genes that were significantly altered in both PR and PRF offspring compared with controls. Ion transport, developmental process, and response to reactive oxygen species (RROS) and steroid hormone response (SHR) ontologies were altered in PR offspring. Folic acid supplementation prevented changes within RROS and SHR response pathways, but not in ion transport or developmental process. There was no effect of maternal PR on mRNA expression of imprinted genes. Insulin 1 and Pleckstrin homology-like domain family A member 2 were increased significantly in PRF compared with PR offspring. The present findings show that the pattern of induced changes in the adult liver transcriptome were dependent on maternal protein and folic acid intakes during pregnancy.
There is substantial evidence which shows that constraints in the early life environment are an important determinant of risk of metabolic disease and CVD. There is emerging evidence that higher birth weight, which reflects a more abundant prenatal environment, is associated with increased risk of cancer, in particular breast cancer and childhood leukaemia. Using specific examples from epidemiology and experimental studies, this review discusses the hypothesis that increased susceptibility to CVD, metabolic disease and cancer have a common origin in developmental changes induced in the developing fetus by aspects of the intra-uterine environment including nutrition which involve stable changes to the epigenetic regulation of specific genes. However, the induction of specific disease risk is dependent upon the nature of the environmental challenge and interactions between the susceptibility set by the altered epigenome and the environment throughout the life course.
Induction of an altered phenotype by prenatal under-nutrition involves changes in the epigenetic regulation of specific genes. We investigated the effect of feeding pregnant rats a protein-restricted (PR) diet with different amounts of folic acid on the methylation of individual CpG dinucleotides in the hepatic PPARα promoter in juvenile offspring, and the effect of the maternal PR diet on CpG methylation in adult offspring. Pregnant rats (five per group) were fed 180 g/kg casein (control) or 90 g/kg casein with 1 mg/kg folic acid (PR), or 90 g/kg casein and 5 mg/kg folic acid (PRF). Offspring were killed on postnatal day 34 (five males and females per group) and day 80 (five males per group). Methylation of sixteen CpG dinucleotides in the PPARα promoter was measured by pyrosequencing. Mean PPARα promoter methylation in the PR offspring (4·5 %) was 26 % lower than controls (6·1 %) due to specific reduction at CpG dinucleotides 2 (40 %), 3 (43 %), 4 (33 %) and 16 (48 %) (P < 0·05). There was no significant difference in methylation at these CpG between control and PRF offspring. Methylation of CpG 5 and 8 was higher (47 and 63 %, respectively, P < 0·05) in the PRF offspring than control or PR offspring. The methylation pattern in day 80 PR offspring was comparable to day 34 PR offspring. These data show for the first time that prenatal nutrition induces differential changes to the methylation of individual CpG dinucleotides in juvenile rats which persist in adults.
The nutritional cues which induce different phenotypes from a single genotype in developing offspring are poorly understood. How well prenatal nutrient availability before birth predicts that after birth may also determine the offspring's response to later metabolic challenge. We investigated the effect of feeding pregnant rats diets containing protein at 180 g/kg (Control) or 90 g/kg (protein-restricted, PR) and either 1 or 5 mg folic acid/kg on growth and metabolic response to fasting in their offspring, and also the effect of diets with different fat contents (40 g/kg (Fat4) or 100 g/kg (Fat10)) after weaning. Offspring of dams fed the PR diet with 5 mg/kg folic acid were significantly lighter than other offspring. The PR offspring fed the Fat4 diet had lower plasma TAG than the Control offspring, but this relationship was reversed when offspring were fed Fat10. Increasing the folic acid content of the Control or PR maternal diets induced opposing effects on plasma TAG, NEFA, β-hydroxybutyrate and glucose concentrations in offspring fed Fat4. The effect was accentuated in offspring fed the Fat10 diet such that these metabolites were increased in the Control offspring, but reduced in the PR offspring. These data show for the first time that maternal dietary folic acid intake alters offspring phenotype depending upon dietary protein intake, and that this effect is modified by fat intake after weaning. Prevention by increased folic acid intake of an altered metabolic phenotype by maternal protein-restriction may be at the expense of somatic growth.
Prenatal nutritional constraint induces an altered metabolic phenotype in the offspring which in humans confers an increased risk of non-communicable disease. Feeding a protein-restricted (PR) diet to pregnant rats causes hypomethylation of specific gene promoters in the offspring and alters the phenotype. We investigated how altered epigenetic regulation of the hepatic glucocorticoid receptor (GR) 110 promoter is induced in the offspring. Rats were fed a control (180 g casein/kg) or a PR (90 g casein/kg) diet throughout pregnancy, and chow during lactation. Offspring were killed at postnatal day 34 (n 5 per maternal dietary group). Methylation-sensitive PCR showed that GR110 promoter methylation was 33 % lower (P < 0·001) and GR expression 84 % higher (P < 0·05) in the PR offspring. Reverse transcription–PCR showed that DNA methyltransferase-1 (Dnmt1) expression was 17 % lower (P < 0·05) in PR offspring, while Dnmt3a/b and methyl binding domain protein-2 expression was not altered. Thus hypomethylation of the GR110 promoter may result from lower capacity to methylate hemimethylated DNA during mitosis. Histone modifications which facilitate transcription were increased at the GR110 promoter (147–921 %, P < 0·001), while those that suppress methylation were decreased (54 %, P < 0·01) or similar to controls. In human umbilical cord (n 15), there was a 2-fold difference between the highest and lowest level of GR1-CTotal promoter methylation. Dnmt1, but not Dnmt3a, expression predicted 49 % (P = 0·003) of the variation in GR1-CTotal promoter methylation. These findings suggest that induction in the offspring of altered epigenetic regulation of the hepatic GR110 promoter, and hence metabolic phenotype, may be due to reduced Dnmt1 expression.
There is considerable evidence for the induction of different phenotypes by variations in the early life environment, including nutrition, which in man is associated with a graded risk of metabolic disease; fetal programming. It is likely that the induction of persistent changes to tissue structure and function by differences in the early life environment involves life-long alterations to the regulation of gene transcription. This view is supported by both studies of human subjects and animal models. The mechanism which underlies such changes to gene expression is now beginning to be understood. In the present review we discuss the role of changes in the epigenetic regulation of transcription, specifically DNA methylation and covalent modification of histones, in the induction of an altered phenotype by nutritional constraint in early life. The demonstration of altered epigenetic regulation of genes in phenotype induction suggests the possibility of interventions to modify long-term disease risk associated with unbalanced nutrition in early life.