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Begum G.,University of Manchester | Stevens A.,University of Manchester | Smith E.B.,University of Manchester | Connor K.,National Research Center for Growth and Development | And 4 more authors.
FASEB Journal | Year: 2012

Undernutrition during pregnancy is implicated in the programming of offspring for the development of obesity and diabetes. We hypothesized that maternal programming causes epigenetic changes in fetal hypothalamic pathways regulating metabolism. This study used sheep to examine the effect of moderate maternal undernutrition (60 d before to 30 d after mating) and twinning to investigate changes in the key metabolic regulators proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) in fetal hypothalami. Methylation of the fetal hypothalamic POMC promoter was reduced in underfed singleton, fed twin, and underfed twin groups (60, 73, and 63% decrease, respectively). This was associated with reduced DNA methyltransferase activity and altered histone methylation and acetylation. Methylation of the hypothalamic GR promoter was decreased in both twin groups and in maternally underfed singleton fetuses (52, 65, and 55% decrease, respectively). This correlated with changes in histone methylation and acetylation and increased GR mRNA expression in the maternally underfed singleton group. Alterations in GR were hypothalamic specific, with no changes in hippocampi. Unaltered levels of OCT4 promoter methylation indicated gene-specific effects. In conclusion, twinning and periconceptional undernutrition are associated with epigenetic changes in fetal hypothalamic POMC and GR genes, potentially resulting in altered energy balance regulation in the offspring. © FASEB.

Corner R.A.,Massey University | Kenyon P.R.,Massey University | Stafford K.J.,Massey University | West D.M.,Massey University | And 2 more authors.
Animal | Year: 2010

This experiment was conducted to evaluate the effect of offering ewes two different feeding levels, during mid and late pregnancy, on ewe and lamb behaviour 12 to 24 h after birth. Romney ewes, bearing twin (n = 80) or triplet foetuses (n = 56), were allocated to a pasture sward height of 2 or 4 cm between 70 and 107 days of pregnancy. In late pregnancy (day 107 to 147), half of the ewes were reallocated the alternate sward height, which produced four treatments: 2-2, 2-4, 4-2 and 4-4. Ewes were weighed on days 65, 92, 107 and 130 of pregnancy and lamb live weights were recorded 12 to 24 h after birth. Twelve to 24 h after birth the maternal behaviour score (MBS) of the ewes were determined, whilst their lambs were tagged. After the lambs were released, the behaviour of each ewe and her lambs was observed for 5 min. Ewe treatment and litter size had no effect on ewe MBS. However, as MBS increased (ewes stayed closer to lambs during tagging), ewes bleated less in a high-pitch and were quicker to make contact with their lamb. During the observation period, ewes in the 4-4 treatment had a greater percentage of their bleats in a low pitch (P < 0.05) than ewes in the 2-2 and 4-2 treatment (61.3% v. 41.3% and 38.8% low bleats, respectively) and more lambs born to 4-4 ewes (95%) bleated than lambs born to 2-2 ewes (84%; P < 0.05). However, lambs born to ewes in the 2-2 treatment bleated earlier than lambs in all other treatments (P < 0.05). Lambs born to 4-4 ewes were less likely (P < 0.05) to move towards their dam in order to make contact than lambs born to 2-2 or 4-2 ewes (3.1% v. 16.9% and 16.7%, respectively). These findings suggest that under the conditions of the present study, ewe nutrition had little effect on maternal behaviour. However, lambs born to ewes offered 2 cm pasture sward heights during mid and/or late pregnancy (2-2, 2-4 and 4-2 treatments) displayed behaviour that demonstrated greater need whereas lambs born to ewes offered 4 cm during mid and late pregnancy sought less attention from their dam. © 2009 The Animal Consortium.

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