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J Dev Orig Health Dis. 2011 Aug;2(4):250-5. doi: 10.1017/S2040174410000425.

Feeding a protein-restricted diet during pregnancy induces altered epigenetic regulation of peroxisomal proliferator-activated receptor-α in the heart of the offspring.

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  • 11Institute of Developmental Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.
  • 22Development and Cell Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton, UK.
  • 33Human Genetics Division, School of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.


Impaired flexibility in the use of substrates for energy production in the heart is implicated in cardiomyopathy. We investigated the effect of maternal protein restriction during pregnancy in rats on the transcription of key genes in cardiac lipid and carbohydrate metabolism in the offspring. Rats were fed protein-sufficient or protein-restricted (PR) diets during pregnancy. Triacylglycerol concentration in adult (day 105) heart was altered by maternal protein intake contingent on post-weaning fat intake and sex. mRNA expression of peroxisomal proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-α and carnitine palmitoyltransferase-1 was increased by the maternal PR diet in adult, but not neonatal, offspring. PPARα promoter methylation was lower in adult and neonatal heart from PR offspring. These findings suggest that prenatal nutrition alters the future transcriptional regulation of cardiac energy metabolism in the offspring through changes in epigenetic regulation of specific genes. However, changes in gene functional changes may not be apparent in early life.

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