Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Maternal high fat diet during pregnancy and lactation alters hepatic expression of insulin like growth factor-2 and key microRNAs in the adult offspring

Junlong Zhang1*, Fang Zhang1, Xavier Didelot2, Kimberley D Bruce3, Felino R Cagampang3, Manu Vatish14, Mark Hanson3, Hendrik Lehnert15, Antonio Ceriello6 and Christopher D Byrne3

Author Affiliations

1 Clinical Science Research Institute, Warwick Medical School, Clinical Sciences Building, University Hospital - Walsgrave Campus, Clifford Bridge Road, Coventry, CV2 2DX, UK

2 Department of Statistics, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK

3 Institute of Developmental Sciences, Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Division, University of Southampton Medical School, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, SO16 0YD, UK

4 Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1301 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, New York, NY 10461, USA

5 1st Medical Department, University of Lübeck Medical School Ratzeburger Allee 160, 23538 Luebeck, Germany

6 Chair of Endocrinology, University of Udine, Italy

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BMC Genomics 2009, 10:478  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-10-478

Published: 16 October 2009



miRNAs play important roles in the regulation of gene functions. Maternal dietary modifications during pregnancy and gestation have long-term effects on the offspring, but it is not known whether a maternal high fat (HF) diet during pregnancy and lactation alters expression of key miRNAs in the offspring.


We studied the effects of maternal HF diet on the adult offspring by feeding mice with either a HF or a chow diet prior to conception, during pregnancy and lactation, and all offspring were weaned onto the same chow diet until adulthood. Maternal HF fed offspring had markedly increased hepatic mRNA levels of peroxisome proliferator activated receptor-alpha (ppar-alpha) and carnitine palmitoyl transferase-1a (cpt-1a) as well as insulin like growth factor-2 (Igf2). A HF diet induced up-regulation of ppar-alpha and cpt-1a expression in the wild type but not in Igf2 knock out mice. Furthermore, hepatic expression of let-7c was also reduced in maternal HF fed offspring. Among 579 miRNAs measured with microarray, ~23 miRNA levels were reduced by ~1.5-4.9-fold. Reduced expression of miR-709 (a highly expressed miRNA), miR-122, miR-192, miR-194, miR-26a, let-7a, let7b and let-7c, miR-494 and miR-483* (reduced by ~4.9 fold) was validated by qPCR. We found that methyl-CpG binding protein 2 was the common predicted target for miR-709, miR-let7s, miR-122, miR-194 and miR-26a using our own purpose-built computer program.


Maternal HF feeding during pregnancy and lactation induced co-ordinated and long-lasting changes in expression of Igf2, fat metabolic genes and several important miRNAs in the offspring.