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      Nutrition During Pregnancy Impacts Offspring’s Epigenetic Status—Evidence from Human and Animal Studies

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          Abstract

          Pregnancy is a vital time of growth and development during which maternal nutrition significantly influences the future health of both mother and baby. During pregnancy, the fetus experiences a critical period of plasticity. Epigenetics, specifically DNA methylation, plays an important role here. As nutrition is influential for DNA methylation, this review aims to determine if maternal nutrition during pregnancy can modify the offspring’s epigenome at birth. Research focuses on micronutrients and methyl donors such as folate and B vitamins. Evidence suggests that maternal nutrition does not largely influence global methylation patterns, particularly in nutrient-replete populations; however, an important impact on gene-specific methylation is observed. A link is shown between maternal nutrition and the methylome of the offspring; however, there remains a paucity of research. With the potential to use DNA methylation patterns at birth to predict health of the child in later life, it is vital that further research be carried out.

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          Most cited references 54

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          DNA methylation patterns and epigenetic memory.

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            DNA methyltransferases Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b are essential for de novo methylation and mammalian development.

            The establishment of DNA methylation patterns requires de novo methylation that occurs predominantly during early development and gametogenesis in mice. Here we demonstrate that two recently identified DNA methyltransferases, Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b, are essential for de novo methylation and for mouse development. Inactivation of both genes by gene targeting blocks de novo methylation in ES cells and early embryos, but it has no effect on maintenance of imprinted methylation patterns. Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b also exhibit nonoverlapping functions in development, with Dnmt3b specifically required for methylation of centromeric minor satellite repeats. Mutations of human DNMT3B are found in ICF syndrome, a developmental defect characterized by hypomethylation of pericentromeric repeats. Our results indicate that both Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b function as de novo methyltransferases that play important roles in normal development and disease.
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              Persistent epigenetic differences associated with prenatal exposure to famine in humans.

              Extensive epidemiologic studies have suggested that adult disease risk is associated with adverse environmental conditions early in development. Although the mechanisms behind these relationships are unclear, an involvement of epigenetic dysregulation has been hypothesized. Here we show that individuals who were prenatally exposed to famine during the Dutch Hunger Winter in 1944-45 had, 6 decades later, less DNA methylation of the imprinted IGF2 gene compared with their unexposed, same-sex siblings. The association was specific for periconceptional exposure, reinforcing that very early mammalian development is a crucial period for establishing and maintaining epigenetic marks. These data are the first to contribute empirical support for the hypothesis that early-life environmental conditions can cause epigenetic changes in humans that persist throughout life.
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                Author and article information

                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, School of Medicine and Medical Science, National Maternity Hospital, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.
                [2 ]UCD Institute of Food and Health, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.
                Author notes
                Journal
                Nutr Metab Insights
                Nutr Metab Insights
                Nutrition and Metabolic Insights
                Nutrition and Metabolic Insights
                Libertas Academica
                1178-6388
                2015
                16 February 2016
                : 8
                : Suppl 1
                : 41-47
                nmi-suppl.1-2015-041
                10.4137/NMI.S29527
                4758803
                26917970
                © 2015 the author(s), publisher and licensee Libertas Academica Ltd.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC 3.0 License.

                Categories
                Review

                offspring, epigenetics, pregnancy, nutrition, programing

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