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J Physiol. 2011 Jun 1;589(Pt 11):2707-17. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2010.203950. Epub 2011 Mar 28.

Gestational high fat diet programs hepatic phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase gene expression and histone modification in neonatal offspring rats.

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Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and Division of Nutritional Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 461 Bevier Hall, MC-182, 905 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


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.

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