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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Maternal diet and disease risk in offsprings

Environmental factors interact with the genome throughout life to determine gene expression and, consequently, tissue function and disease risk. One such factor that is known to play an important role in determining long-term metabolic health is diet during critical periods of development.

A recent published the 08 March edition of PNAS by Ionel Sandovici of the University of Cambridge and others provides important insight into why children born to mothers who consumed an unhealthy diet during pregnancy have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D), a significant contributing factor to heart disease and cancer) later in life. The precise epigenetic mechanisms that underlie these effects remain largely unknown.

In conclusion, our study demonstrates that Hnf4a expression in islets is under tight epigenetic control that is dynamically modulated by maternal diet during early development and by aging. In particular, we demonstrated that the enhancer region is especially susceptible to epigenetic changes resulting from alterations in early nutrition and during the aging process. We propose that changes in promoter–enhancer interactions represent a more general epigenetic mechanism by which early nutrition interacts with the genome to influence gene expression and metabolic health

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