Diabetes Mellitus in Pregnancy Leads to Growth Restriction and Epigenetic Modification of the Srebf2 Gene in Rat Fetuses

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Abstract

Diabetic pregnancy is correlated with increased risk of metabolic and neurological disorders in the offspring putatively mediated epigenetically. Little is known about epigenetic changes already present in fetuses of diabetic pregnancies. We aimed at characterizing the perinatal environment after preexisting maternal diabetes mellitus and at identifying relevant epigenetic changes in the fetus. We focused on the transcription factor Srebf2 (sterol regulatory element binding transcription factor 2), a master gene in regulation of cholesterol metabolism. We tested whether diabetic pregnancy induces epigenetic changes in the Srebf2 promoter and if they become manifest in altered Srebf2 gene expression. We worked with a transgenic rat model of type 2 diabetes mellitus (Tet29) in which the insulin receptor is knocked down by doxycycline-induced RNA interference. Doxycycline was administered preconceptionally to Tet29 and wild-type control rats. Only Tet29 doxycycline dams were hyperglycemic, hyperinsulinemic, and hyperlipidemic. Gene expression was analyzed with quantitative real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction and CpG promoter methylation with pyrosequencing. Immunohistochemistry was performed on fetal brains. Fetuses from diabetic Tet29 dams were hyperglycemic and growth restricted at the end of pregnancy. They further displayed decreased liver and brain weight with concomitant decreased microglial activation in the hippocampus in comparison to fetuses of normoglycemic mothers. Importantly, diabetic pregnancy induced CpG hypermethylation of the Srebf2 promoter in the fetal liver and brain, which was associated with decreased Srebf2 gene expression. In conclusion, diabetic and hyperlipidemic pregnancy induces neurological, metabolic, and epigenetic alterations in the rat fetus. Srebf2 is a potential candidate mediating intrauterine environment-driven epigenetic changes and later diabetic offspring health.

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