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Mol Nutr Food Res. 2020 Feb 28:e1901178. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201901178. [Epub ahead of print]

Maternal Choline Intake Programs Hypothalamic Energy Regulation and Later-Life Phenotype of Male Wistar Rat Offspring.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto, 1 King's College Circle, Rm. 5360, Toronto, Ontario, M5S1A8, Canada.
Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, 228 Savage Hall, Ithaca, NY, 14850, USA.
Department of Physiology, University of Toronto, 1 King's College Circle, Rm. 5360, Toronto, Ontario, M5S1A8, Canada.
Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning, Hospital for Sick Children, 686 Bay Street, Rm. 109705, Toronto, Ontario, M5G0A4, Canada.



High-folic-acid diets during pregnancy result in obesity in the offspring, associated with altered DNA-methylation of hypothalamic food intake neurons. Like folic acid, the methyl-donor choline modulates foetal brain development, but its long-term programing effects on energy regulation remain undefined. This study aims to describe the effect of choline intake during pregnancy on offspring phenotype and hypothalamic energy-regulatory mechanisms.


Wistar rat dams are fed an AIN-93G diet with recommended choline (RC, 1 g kg-1 diet), low choline (LC, 0.5-fold), or high choline (HC, 2.5-fold) during pregnancy. Male pups are terminated at birth and 17 weeks post-weaning. Brain 1-carbon metabolites, body weight, food intake, energy expenditure, plasma hormones, and protein expression of hypothalamic neuropeptides are measured. HC pups have higher expression of the orexigenic neuropeptide-Y neurons at birth, consistent with higher cumulative food intake and body weight gain post-weaning compared to RC and LC offspring. LC pups have lower leptin receptor expression at birth and lower energy expenditure and activity during adulthood.


Choline content of diets that are consumed by rats during pregnancy affects the later-life phenotype of offspring, associated with altered in utero programing of hypothalamic food intake regulation.


choline; fetal programing; food intake regulation; hypothalamus; obesity; pregnancy


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