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Maternal High-Fat Diet Tied to Offspring's Gene Expression

Mouse study finds high-fat diet in pregnancy may alter offspring's dopamine and opioid-related genes

THURSDAY, Aug. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Maternal consumption of a high-fat diet during pregnancy and lactation may alter gene expression among offspring, according to an animal study published online Aug. 4 in Endocrinology.

Using a mouse model, Zivjena Vucetic, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues evaluated the long-term effect of maternal consumption of a high-fat diet on dopamine and opioid gene expression within the mesocorticolimbic reward circuitry and hypothalamus of offspring.

The researchers found an approximately three- to 10-fold upregulation of dopamine reuptake transporter (DAT) in the ventral tegmental area, nucleus accumbens, and prefrontal cortex, and a downregulation of DAT in the hypothalamus of mice whose dams consumed an high-fat diet. In addition, these mice showed increased expression of μ-opioid receptor and preproenkephalin in the nucleus accumbens, prefrontal cortex, and hypothalamus. The study also revealed that mice from dams fed a high-fat diet during pregnancy and lactation showed an increased preference for sucrose and fat.

"These data demonstrate that maternal consumption of a high-fat diet can change the offspring's epigenetic marks (DNA hypomethylation) in association with long-term alterations in gene expression (dopamine and opioids) and behavior (preference for palatable foods)," the authors write.

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