Newborns of obese parents have altered DNA methylation patterns at imprinted genes

Regular readers will be well aware of the accumulating data on the role of maternal (and perhaps paternal) obesity on the developing fetus that can result in a lifelong predisposition for obesity in the offspring.

Now a study by Soubry and colleagues form the University of Leuven, Belgium, published in the International Journal of Obesity, provides evidence of epigenetic modification on key genes involved in human development in the offspring of obese parents.

sharma-obesity-pregnancy5The study examined parental preconceptional obesity in relation to DNA methylation profiles in newborns at multiple human imprinted genes important in normal growth and development (MEG3, MEST, PEG3, PLAGL1, SGCE/PEG10, and NNAT).

After adjusting for potential confounders and cluster effects, paternal obesity was significantly associated with lower methylation levels at the MEST, PEG3, and NNAT genes.

From these studies, the authors conclude that, altered methylation may occur at multiple imprint regulatory regions in children born to obese parents, compared to children born to non-obese parents.

Thus, their data suggests a preconceptional influence of parental life-style or overnutrition on the reprogramming of imprint marks during gametogenesis.

Interestingly enough, their data also suggests that developing sperm may well be susceptible to environmental insults (in this case weight gain).

These findings are of considerable importance as other evidence suggests that the acquired imprint instability may be carried on to the next generation and increase the risk for chronic diseases such as obesity in adulthood.

Montreal, QC

ResearchBlogging.orgSoubry A, Murphy SK, Wang F, Huang Z, Vidal AC, Fuemmeler BF, Kurtzberg J, Murtha A, Jirtle RL, Schildkraut JM, & Hoyo C (2013). Newborns of obese parents have altered DNA methylation patterns at imprinted genes. International journal of obesity (2005) PMID: 24158121