[The transgenerational mechanisms in developmental programming of metabolic diseases]

Elena Zambrano
Revista de Investigación Clínica; Organo del Hospital de Enfermedades de la Nutrición 2009, 61 (1): 41-52
Human epidemiological and experimental animal studies have shown that suboptimal environments in the womb and during early neonatal life alter growth and may program offspring susceptibility to lifelong health problems. One of the most interesting and significant feature of developmental programming is the evidence that adverse consequences of altered intrauterine environments can be passed from first generation to second generation offspring. To obtain the transgenerational phenotype, a negative environment is required during fetal or early neonatal life, the physiologic phenotype or disease can be transmitted through the germ line and the subsequent generations are not directly exposed to the environmental factor. The hypothesis has become well accepted by compelling animal studies that define the outcome of specific challenges such as: 1) nutrient restriction or overfeeding during pregnancy and lactation; 2) uterine blood flow restriction; 3) fetal exposure to inappropriately high levels of glucocorticoids, and 4) experimental maternal diabetes. Maternal protein restriction in the rat adversely affects glucose metabolism of male and female second generation offspring in a gender and developmental time window-specific manner. Other studies have proved transgenerational passage of effects resulting from treatment of pregnant rats with dexamethasone by either maternal or paternal lines. First generation female diabetic offspring of F0 rats treated with streptozotocin during pregnancy had F2 offspring with altered glucose and carbohydrate metabolism. The studies suggest that the mechanisms involved in developmental programming are likely epigenetic rather than due to DNA sequence mutations. Many individuals all over the world experience undernutrition, stress, hyperglycemia and other negative environmental factors during pregnancy and/or lactation. Insult during this critical period of development may induce malprogramming and adversely alter not only the F1 generation but also future generations. Preventing or treating these conditions will help to minimize the risk of transmission of metabolic diseases to future generations.

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