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Epigenetics. 2012 Mar;7(3):239-52. doi: 10.4161/epi.7.3.19183.

Maternal dietary protein restriction and excess affects offspring gene expression and methylation of non-SMC subunits of condensin I in liver and skeletal muscle.

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Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology, Dummerstorf, Germany.


Recent evidence indicates that maternal nutrition during pregnancy influences gene expression in offspring through epigenetic alterations. In the present study we evaluated the effect of protein excess and deficiency during porcine pregnancy on offspring hepatic and skeletal muscular expression patterns of key genes of methionine metabolism (DNMT1, DNMT3a, DNMT3b, BHMT, MAT2B and AHCYL1), condensin I subunit genes (NCAPD2, NCAPG and NCAPH), important for chromosome condensation and segregation, global DNA methylation and gene-specific DNA methylation. German Landrace sows were randomly assigned to control (CO), high protein (HP) and low protein (LP) diet groups. Tissue samples of offspring were collected from fetal (dpc95), newborn (dpn1), weanling (dpn28) and finisher pigs (dpn188). Gene expression of DNMT1, DNMT3a and DNMT3b was influenced by both HP and LP diets, indicating an involvement of DNA methylation in fetal programming by maternal protein supply. Moreover, hepatic global methylation was significantly affected by protein restriction at dpc95 (p = 0.004) and by protein excess at dpn188 (p = 0.034). Gene expression in fetal liver was significantly different between CO and LP for NCAPD2 (p = 0.0005), NCAPG (p = 0.0009) and NCAPH (p < 0.0001). In skeletal muscle, LP fetuses had significantly altered gene expression of NCAPD2 (p = 0.020) and NCAPH (p = 0.001), compared with CO. Furthermore, NCAPG was differentially methylated among LP, HP and CO; indeed, a significant positive correlation was detected with transcript amount in fetal pigs (r = 0.47, p = 0.002). These data demonstrate that both restriction and excess dietary protein during pregnancy alters the offspring's epigenetic marks and influences gene expression.

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