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Epigenetics. 2014 Feb;9(2):286-96. doi: 10.4161/epi.27110. Epub 2013 Nov 12.

Maternal choline modifies fetal liver copper, gene expression, DNA methylation, and neonatal growth in the tx-j mouse model of Wilson disease.

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Department of Internal Medicine; Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology; University of California Davis; Davis, CA USA.
Research Service; Veterans Affairs Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System; Omaha, NE USA.
Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology; Genome Center; MIND Institute; University of California Davis; Davis, CA USA.
Department of Nutrition; University of California Davis; Davis, CA USA.
Department of Public Health Sciences; Division of Biostatistics; University of California Davis; Davis, CA USA.
Department of Pathology; UCLA/Harbor Medical Center; Torrance, CA USA.


Maternal diet can affect fetal gene expression through epigenetic mechanisms. Wilson disease (WD), which is caused by autosomal recessive mutations in ATP7B encoding a biliary copper transporter, is characterized by excessive hepatic copper accumulation, but variability in disease severity. We tested the hypothesis that gestational supply of dietary methyl groups modifies fetal DNA methylation and expression of genes involved in methionine and lipid metabolism that are impaired prior to hepatic steatosis in the toxic milk (tx-j) mouse model of WD. Female C3H control and tx-j mice were fed control (choline 8 mmol/Kg of diet) or choline-supplemented (choline 36 mmol/Kg of diet) diets for 2 weeks throughout mating and pregnancy to gestation day 17. A second group of C3H females, half of which were used to cross foster tx-j pups, received the same diet treatments that extended during lactation to 21 d postpartum. Compared with C3H, fetal tx-j livers had significantly lower copper concentrations and significantly lower transcript levels of Cyclin D1 and genes related to methionine and lipid metabolism. Maternal choline supplementation prevented the transcriptional deficits in fetal tx-j liver for multiple genes related to cell growth and metabolism. Global DNA methylation was increased by 17% in tx-j fetal livers after maternal choline treatment (P<0.05). Maternal dietary choline rescued the lower body weight of 21 d tx-j mice. Our results suggest that WD pathogenesis is modified by maternal in utero factors, including dietary choline.


CyclinD1; DNA methylation; S-adenosylmethionine; choline; copper; fetus; liver

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