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Neural Regen Res. 2019 Mar;14(3):491-500. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.245473.

Paternal physical exercise modulates global DNA methylation status in the hippocampus of male rat offspring.

Author information

1
Programa de Pós-Graduação em Neurociências; Laboratório de Histofisiologia Comparada, Departamento de Ciências Morfológicas, Instituto de Ciências Básicas da Saúde, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil.
2
Laboratório de Histofisiologia Comparada, Departamento de Ciências Morfológicas, Instituto de Ciências Básicas da Saúde, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil.
3
Programa de Pós-Graduação em Biociências e Reabilitação, Centro Universitário Metodista-IPA, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil.

Abstract

It is widely known that maternal physical exercise is able to induce beneficial improvements in offspring cognition; however, the effects of paternal exercise have not been explored in detail. The present study was designed to evaluate the impact of paternal physical exercise on memory and learning, neuroplasticity and DNA methylation levels in the hippocampus of male offspring. Adult male Wistar rats were divided into two groups: sedentary or exercised fathers. The paternal preconception exercise protocol consisted of treadmill running, 20 minutes daily, 5 consecutive days per week for 22 days, while the mothers were not trained. After mating, paternal sperm was collected for global DNA methylation analysis. At postnatal day 53, the offspring were euthanized, and the hippocampus was dissected to measure cell survival by 5-bromo-2'-deoxiuridine and to determine the expression of synaptophysin, reelin, brain-derived neurotrophic factor and global DNA methylation levels. To measure spatial memory and learning changes in offspring, the Morris water maze paradigm was used. There was an improvement in spatial learning, as well as a significant decrease in hippocampal global DNA methylation levels in the offspring from exercised fathers compared with those from sedentary ones; however, no changes were observed in neuroplasticity biomarkers brain-derived neurotrophic factor, reelin and 5-bromo-2'-deoxiuridine. Finally, the global DNA methylation of paternal sperm was not significantly changed by physical exercise. These results suggest a link between paternal preconception physical activity and cognitive benefit, which may be associated with hippocampal epigenetic programming in male offspring. However, the biological mechanisms of this modulation remain unclear.

KEYWORDS:

epigenetics; fetal programming; inheritance; learning; methylation; nerve regeneration; preconception; sperm; treadmill running

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the authorship and/or publication of this manuscript

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