Just in time for Mother’s Day, a new published report finds that a mother’s diet at the conception of her child causes life-long epigenetic differences in the metastable epialleles of the child with “permanent phenotypic consequences”.
While it may seem that the “you are what you eat” card has been played to death to explain epigenetic effects across generations, and even to spread some of the blame onto fathers, there’s just no escaping the paradigm shifting implications of nutrition and DNA methylation.
A team of hungry researchers from the MRC International Nutrition Group investigated the natural seasonal variation in the diets of Gambian women, and used those fluctuations to test whether the shifting amounts of methyl donors in the diets would produce different effects on pregnant mothers and their children.
Here’s the digest:
- Taking inspiration from previous work in mouse models, the group focused in on DNA methylation at metastable epialleles that were particularly sensitive to maternal nutrition in early pregnancy.
- Significant seasonal variations in methyl-donor intake influenced 13 of their biomarkers in the mothers plasma.
- Some of those biomarkers predict the differential methylation occurring at the metastable epialleles in their offspring.
This project took the seminal agouti studies on nutrition to their next translational level. Senior author Branwen Hennig concludes that “Our results represent the first demonstration in humans that a mother’s nutritional well-being at the time of conception can change how her child’s genes will be interpreted, with a life-long impact.”
Take a bite out of the epigenome over at Nature Communications, May 2014