Maternal betaine supplementation in rats induces intergenerational changes in hepatic IGF-1 expression and DNA methylation

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Betaine is widely used in animal nutrition to promote growth. Here, we aimed to investigate whether maternal betaine supplementation during pregnancy can exert multigenerational effects on growth across two generations and the possible epigenetic modifications associated to such effects.

Methods and results:

In this study, 3-month-old female Sprague-Dawley rats were fed diet supplemented with 1% betaine throughout the pregnancy and lactation. Betaine-supplemented dams produced bigger litter but smaller F1 pups at birth and weaning. However, F2 pubs had higher weaning weight. In accordance with the growth performance, serum insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels were significantly lower in F1 yet higher in F2 pups, so was hepatic IGF-1 mRNA expression. Concurrently, dietary betaine supplementation to F0 dams increased hepatic expression of betaine homocysteine methyltransferase, at both mRNA and protein levels, in F1, but not F2 pups. Moreover, hepatic IGF-1 gene promoter 1 was detected to be significantly hypermethylated in F1 pups, whereas both promoters 1 and 2, together with almost all exons, were found to be hypomethylated in F2 offspring.


Maternal betaine supplementation during pregnancy and lactation exerts distinct effects on growth of F1 and F2 rat offspring, probably through differential modification of IGF-1 gene methylation and expression in liver.

Dietary betaine supplementation in grand dams exhibits distinct effects on their F1 and F2 offspring. The weaning weight of F1 rats is lower, yet that of F2 is higher, which is associated with accordant alterations in serum IGF-1 level and hepatic IGF-1 mRNA expression, together with hyper- and hypomethylation of IGF-1 gene promoter, respectively, in F1 and F2 offspring liver.

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