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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Biology of Obesity Prevention
2010 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
It is not clear whether or how maternal nutrient status during pregnancy epigenetically affects mitochondrial energy metabolism in offspring to increase their susceptibility for developing obesity. Thus, the overall objective is to determine, using animal models, whether low protein intake, high energy intake, or low iron intake during pregnancy influence the development of obesity in offspring through the nutritional programming of mitochondrial function during early development. Specific objectives are: (1) determine whether maternal energy and key nutrient intakes produce epigenetic changes in energy metabolism that contribute to obesity in the offspring, and (2) determine the functional effects of energy, key nutrient intakes and physical activity on obesity-related changes in the expression of genes and protein components of energy metabolism pathways. Within the context of these objectives, the goals of the research are: (1) determine whether protein restriction during pregnancy produces epigenetic changes that, by compromising physiological function, increase the susceptibility of offspring to obesity when fed energy-dense diets; (2) determine whether consumption of diets having excess energy during pregnancy produces long-term mitochondrial dysfunction in offspring that increases their susceptibility to obesity; (3) determine whether low maternal intakes of iron during pregnancy produce mitochondrial dysfunction related to increased susceptibility to obesity in the offspring; and (4) determine whether low maternal intakes of iron during pregnancy impairs mitochondrial adaptation to physical activity in offspring that decreases the effectiveness of physical activity in reducing body weight.


1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Three dietary models will be used with laboratory animals. (1) Female rats will be fed diets containing low or normal levels of protein throughout pregnancy. Immediately after birth, the rats fed low protein diets will be changed to normal protein diets. Half of the offspring born to dams fed low protein diet during pregnancy will be weaned to high fat diets and half will be weaned to normal fat diets. Offspring of dams fed normal protein diet during pregnancy will be treated identically. The offspring will remain on the postweaning diets for the remainder of the experiment. (2) Female rats will be fed high or normal fat diets 14 days prior to conception and throughout pregnancy and lactation. Half of the offspring born to dams fed high fat during pregnancy will be weaned to high fat diets and half will be weaned to normal fat diets. Offspring of dams fed normal fat during pregnancy will be treated identically. (3) Female rats will be fed low or normal iron diets 21 days prior to conception and throughout pregnancy and lactation. Half of the offspring born to dams fed low iron during pregnancy will be weaned to high fat diets and half will be weaned to normal fat diets. Offspring of dams fed normal iron during pregnancy will be treated identically. In a variation of the low/normal maternal iron model, the offspring will be maintained on either normal or high fat diets for 8 weeks. At the end of 8 weeks, all the offspring will be given normal fat diet and half will be subjected to exercise for 6 weeks. Offspring will be tested for epigenetic changes, changes in glycolytic and oxidative metabolism, muscle and liver mitochondrial function, and mitochondrial oxidative damage over a period of 6 to 36 weeks after being weaned to their postnatal diets. Epigenetic changes will be assessed by determining DNA methylation and the up- and/or down-regulation of differentially methylated genes will be confirmed by real-time PCR. Measurements of mitochondrial function will include respiration, respiratory complex activity and composition, and reactive oxygen production. Oxidative and glycolytic metabolism will be assessed by measuring the activity of key enzymes in the glycolytic and oxidative pathways. Mitochondria are a major source of reactive oxygen species. Assessment of the outcomes of mitochondrial dysfunction will extend to measurement of oxidative and nitrosative damage to mitochondrial proteins and DNA. For metabolic assessment, blood will be analyzed for glucose, triglyceride, insulin, leptin, and adiponectin concentrations. In addition to body weights, adiposity, lean tissue mass, and total body water components of body composition will be assessed by quantitative magnetic resonance.


3.Progress Report
This is the annual report for the new OSQR-approved Project 5450-51000-047-00D that replaces Project 5450-51000-041-00D. (See separate annual report terminating that project.)

One of the goals of the project is to determine whether protein restriction during pregnancy produces epigenetic changes that, by compromising physiological function, increase the susceptibility of offspring to obesity when fed energy-dense diets. An experiment was initiated to accomplish this goal. Female rats were fed either low or normal protein diets for three weeks prior to breeding and throughout pregnancy and lactation. Offspring from these two maternal diet treatment groups were given either normal or high fat diet. The experiment is ongoing and no data has yet been collected from first generation offspring regarding their susceptibility to obesity or epigenetic changes that affect their energy metabolism. Methodology was developed and/or refined for use in the experiment. These methods include DNA methylation arrays, CpG methylation analysis, and PCR methods for mitochondrial gene copy number.


Last Modified: 4/17/2014
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