[Epigenetics and Nutrition: maternal nutrition impacts on placental development and health of offspring]

Polina E Panchenko, Marion Lemaire, Sara Fneich, Sarah Voisin, Mélanie Jouin, Claudine Junien, Anne Gabory
Biologie Aujourd'hui 2015, 209 (2): 175-87
The environment, defined broadly by all that is external to the individual, conditions the phenotype during development, particularly the susceptibility to develop non-communicable diseases. This notion, called Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD), is based on numerous epidemiological studies as well as animal models. Thus, parental nutrition and obesity can predispose the offspring to develop metabolic and cardiovascular diseases in adulthood. The known underlying mechanisms include an altered development of tissues that adapt to maternal metabolic condition, and a placental dysfunction, which in turn impacts fetal growth and development. Epigenetic mechanisms modulate gene expression without affecting the DNA sequence itself. The main epigenetic marks are DNA methylation and histone post-translational modifications. These marks are erased and set-up during gametogenesis and development in order to ensure cellular identity. Therefore, they can lead to a memorisation of early environment and induce long-term alteration of cell and tissue functions, which will condition the susceptibility to non-communicable diseases. The placenta is a programming agent of adult disease. The environment, such as smoking or psychosocial stress, is able to modify epigenetic processes in placenta, such as small RNA expression and DNA methylation. We showed that placenta is sensitive to maternal obesity and maternal nutrition, in terms of histology, transcription and epigenetic marks. A clear sexual dimorphism is remarkable in the placental response to maternal environment. In adulthood, the phenotype is also different between males and females. Epigenetic mechanisms could underlie this differential response of males and females to the same environment. The DOHaD can no longer be ignored in Biology of Reproduction. The prevention of non-communicable diseases must take this new paradigm into account. Research will allow a better comprehension of the mechanisms of this early conditioning and the marked sexual dimorphism it is associated to.

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