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Sci Rep. 2018 Oct 2;8(1):14609. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-32975-1.

In Utero Heat Stress Alters the Offspring Epigenome.

Author information

1
Department of Animal Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA.
2
University of Florida Genetics Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA.
3
Department of Animal Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA. gdahl@ufl.edu.
4
Department of Animal Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA. jlaporta@ufl.edu.

Abstract

Exposure to intrauterine heat stress during late gestation affects offspring performance into adulthood. However, underlying mechanistic links between thermal insult in fetal life and postnatal outcomes are not completely understood. We examined morphology, DNA methylation, and gene expression of liver and mammary gland for bull calves and heifers that were gestated under maternal conditions of heat stress or cooling (i.e. in utero heat stressed vs. in utero cooled calves). Mammary tissue was harvested from dairy heifers during their first lactation and liver from bull calves at birth. The liver of in utero heat stressed bull calves contained more cells and the mammary glands of in utero heat stressed heifers were comprised of smaller alveoli. We identified more than 1,500 CpG sites differently methylated between maternal treatment groups. These CpGs were associated with approximately 400 genes, which play a role in processes, such as development, innate immune defense, cell signaling, and transcription and translation. We also identified over 100 differentially expressed genes in the mammary gland with similar functions. Interestingly, fifty differentially methylated genes were shared by both bull calf liver and heifer mammary gland. Intrauterine heat stress alters the methylation profile of liver and mammary DNA and programs their morphology in postnatal life, which may contribute to the poorer performance of in utero heat stressed calves.

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