Several recent studies have shown that Mom’s diet at conception or during pregnancy can affect the epigenetics of her offspring.
Now it’s Dad’s turn to share some of the responsibility as well. A new Cell paper by Oliver Rando at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and colleagues found that male mice fed a low-protein diet transmitted some interesting characteristics to their offspring, including:
- Changes in expression of genes associated with cholesterol and lipid biosynthesis
- Numerous modest (~20%) changes in cytosine methylation in the liver, including increased methylation of an enhancer for the lipid regulator Ppara
From an evolutionary standpoint, such changes might help prepare offspring for lean times like those experienced by their parents. But it’s still a mystery to the researchers exactly how those methylation differences get transmitted to the offspring, since DNA from the Papa-mouse’s sperm didn’t show the altered methylation patterns. However, they did uncover some changes in sperm RNA content and chromatin packaging in male mice fed a low-protein diet, which might affect DNA methylation patterns of their offspring during development.
So any future dads out there might want to make sure their nutrition is on the right track.
Get all the diet details at Cell, December 2010.