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Front Pediatr. 2017 Aug 22;5:178. doi: 10.3389/fped.2017.00178. eCollection 2017.

Epigenetic Matters: The Link between Early Nutrition, Microbiome, and Long-term Health Development.

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Department of Pediatrics, Aldo Moro University, Bari, Italy.
Neonatology and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, St. Orsola-Malpighi Hospital, Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
Department of Biomedical Science and Human Oncology, Section of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Aldo Moro University, Bari, Italy.
Division of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, United States.
Department of Pediatrics, University of Turku, Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland.
Division of Neonatology, Department of Translational Medical Sciences, University "Federico II" di Napoli, Naples, Italy.


Epigenetic modifications are among the most important mechanisms by which environmental factors can influence early cellular differentiation and create new phenotypic traits during pregnancy and within the neonatal period without altering the deoxyribonucleic acid sequence. A number of antenatal and postnatal factors, such as maternal and neonatal nutrition, pollutant exposure, and the composition of microbiota, contribute to the establishment of epigenetic changes that can not only modulate the individual adaptation to the environment but also have an influence on lifelong health and disease by modifying inflammatory molecular pathways and the immune response. Postnatal intestinal colonization, in turn determined by maternal flora, mode of delivery, early skin-to-skin contact and neonatal diet, leads to specific epigenetic signatures that can affect the barrier properties of gut mucosa and their protective role against later insults, thus potentially predisposing to the development of late-onset inflammatory diseases. The aim of this review is to outline the epigenetic mechanisms of programming and development acting within early-life stages and to examine in detail the role of maternal and neonatal nutrition, microbiota composition, and other environmental factors in determining epigenetic changes and their short- and long-term effects.


disease origin; epigenetic regulation; fetal programming; human milk; microbiome; micronutrients; overnutrition; undernutrition

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