Obstet Gynecol Sci.  2020 Apr;63(3):239-250. 10.5468/ogs.2020.63.3.239.

Long-term effects of pro-opiomelanocortin methylation induced in food-restricted dams on metabolic phenotypes in male rat offspring

  • 1Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Medical Research Institute,, College of Medicine, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Korea
  • 2Departments of Molecular Medicine, College of Medicine, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Korea


Maternal malnutrition affects the growth and metabolic health of the offspring. Little is known about the longterm effect on metabolic indices of epigenetic changes in the brain caused by maternal diet. Thus, we explored the effect of maternal food restriction during pregnancy on metabolic profiles of the offspring, by evaluating the DNA methylation of hypothalamic appetite regulators at 3 weeks of age.
Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into 2 groups: a control group and a group with a 50% food-restricted (FR) diet during pregnancy. Methylation and expression of appetite regulator genes were measured in 3-week-old offspring using pyrosequencing, real-time polymerase chain reaction, and western blotting analyses. We analyzed the relationship between DNA methylation and metabolic profiles by Pearson’s correlation analysis.
The expression of pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) decreased, whereas DNA methylation significantly increased in male offspring of the FR dams, compared to the male offspring of control dams. Hypermethylation of POMC was positively correlated with the levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in 3-week-old male offspring. In addition, there were significant positive correlations between hypermethylation of POMC and the levels of triglycerides, HDL-C, and leptin in 6-month-old male offspring.
Our findings suggest that maternal food restriction during pregnancy influences the expression of hypothalamic appetite regulators via epigenetic changes, leading to the development of metabolic disorders in the offspring.


Pro-opiomelanocortin; Appetite regulation; DNA methylation; Metabolic syndrome; Malnutrition
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