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ARS Home » Plains Area » Grand Forks, North Dakota » Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center » Healthy Body Weight Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #328811

Research Project: Biology of Obesity Prevention

Location: Healthy Body Weight Research

Title: Influence of maternal obesity, diet and exercise on epigenetic regulation of adipocytes

item DHASARATHY, ARCHANA - University Of North Dakota
item Roemmich, James
item Larson, Kate

Submitted to: Molecular Aspects of Medicine
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/25/2016
Publication Date: 4/1/2017
Publication URL:
Citation: Dhasarathy, A., Roemmich, J.N., Larson, K.J. 2017. Influence of maternal obesity, diet and exercise on epigenetic regulation of adipocytes. Molecular Aspects of Medicine. 54:37-49.

Interpretive Summary: Three major different types of adipocytes can be formed in fat tissue; white, beige and brown adipocytes, depending on the exposure to environmental stimuli such as high fat diets and exercise. In addition, recent studies have shown that maternal diet and exercise contribute to changes in beige and brown adipocytes in the offspring during gestational period. Importantly, studies have shown that increased numbers of beige and brown adipocyte serve a beneficial role for health and weight control because these cells have a larger capacity to metabolize fats that are stored inside of the fat cell thereby contributing to reduced body fatness. In other words, beige and brown, compared to white adipocyte, may play an important role maintaining a healthy body weight and counter obesity and obesity-related diseases. The developmental periods and the mechanisms of how beige or brown adipocytes are formed and whether maternal diet or exercise influence beige and brown adipocyte formation is not yet known. This review discusses the influences of maternal diet and exercise on inheritable traits for offspring obesity risk, particularly as related to beige and brown adipocyte formation.

Technical Abstract: The prevalence of obesity and metabolic syndrome has been increasing at an alarming rate in both children and adults. Obesity is associated with increased risk for development of metabolic syndrome and chronic diseases. Obesity is a leading cause of preventable death so there is an urgent need for understanding the causes of obesity in order to develop strategies for obesity prevention and treatment. One potentially important contributing factor is epigenetic alterations, in effect heritable changes in gene expression, without changes in genotype that increase the risk of obesity in offspring and perpetuate obesity across generations. Much progress has been made in identifying risk loci for obesity, specifically in respect to increased body mass index or body adiposity. Epigenetic modification of genes acquired early in life by exposure to environmental factors, may contribute to the later development of obesity in offspring, correlate with offspring adiposity, and are important for transgenerational propagation of changes in energy metabolism that promote weight gain and obesity. Unlike alterations in genetic codes, epigenetic changes are modifiable by dietary agents. Therefore, this review focuses on understanding the role of epigenetic mechanisms and alterations that regulate metabolic processes in the cells of highly metabolically active tissues, and how these epigenetic alterations might be transmitted to subsequent generations.