Nav: Home

Parental diet affects sperm and health of future offspring

March 19, 2020

When parents eat low-protein or high-fat diets it can lead to metabolic disorders in their adult offspring. Now, an international team led by researchers at the RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research (CPR) have identified a key player and the molecular events underlying this phenomenon in mice.

The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease is a school of thought that focuses on how prenatal factors such as stress and diet impact the development of diseases when children reach adulthood. Experimental evidence indicates that environmental factors that affect parents do play a role in reprogramming the health of their offspring throughout their lifespan. In particular, parental low-protein diets are known to be related to metabolic disorders in their children, such as diabetes.

This phenomenon is thought to be regulated through epigenetics--heritable changes in which genes are turned on and off without actually changing an individual's DNA. However, until now, the details of this process were unknown. In their study published in Molecular Cell, a team led by Keisuke Yoshida and Shunsuke Ishii at RIKEN CPR tackled this question in a mouse model and discovered that a protein called ATF7 is essential for the intergenerational effect. ATF7 is a transcription factor, meaning that it regulates when genes are turned on and off.

The researchers fed male and female mice on normal diets or low protein diets and then allowed them to mate. They compared gene expression--which genes were turned on--in adult offspring of male mice who had been on the two different diets and found that expression differed for hundreds of genes in the liver, many of which are involved in cholesterol metabolism. However, when they used genetically engineered male mice that lacked one copy of the ATF7 gene, gene expression in the offspring did not differ from the expression in offspring whose parents ate normal diets.

This result means that a male mouse's diet can influence the health of future children. As male mice cannot affect offspring in pregnant females, the researchers concluded that the most likely scenario was that the epigenetic changes occurred in the male's sperm before conception, and that ATF7 has a critical function in this process.

Based on this logic, the team searched for and found genes in sperm cells that are controlled by ATF7, including those for fat metabolism in the liver and cholesterol production. Experiments revealed that when fathers-to-be ate low protein diets, ATF7 came loose and no longer bound to these genes. This in turn reduced a particular modification to histone proteins, with a net effect that these sperm-cell genes were turned on, rather than the normal situation of being turned off. "The most surprising and exciting discovery was that the epigenetic change induced by paternal low protein diet is maintained in mature sperm during spermatogenesis and transmitted to the next generation," Ishii says.

Using a mouse model, this study helps explain the molecular details underlying the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease theory, and the kinds of nutritional conditions that could lead to lifestyle-related diseases in children, such as diabetes. In addition, it should now be possible to predict metabolic changes in the next generation by measuring epigenetic changes in the identified genes of paternal sperm cells. "We hope that people, especially those who have poor nutrition by choice, will pay more attention to their diet when planning for the next generation. Our results indicate that diets with more protein and less fat are healthier not just for everyone's own body, but also for sperm and the health of potential children."
-end-


RIKEN

Related Protein Articles:

Substituting the next-best protein
Children born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy have a mutation in the X-chromosome gene that would normally code for dystrophin, a protein that provides structural integrity to skeletal muscles.
A direct protein-to-protein binding couples cell survival to cell proliferation
The regulators of apoptosis watch over cell replication and the decision to enter the cell cycle.
A protein that controls inflammation
A study by the research team of Prof. Geert van Loo (VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research) has unraveled a critical molecular mechanism behind autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and psoriasis.
Resurrecting ancient protein partners reveals origin of protein regulation
After reconstructing the ancient forms of two cellular proteins, scientists discovered the earliest known instance of a complex form of protein regulation.
Sensing protein wellbeing
The folding state of the proteins in live cells often reflect the cell's general health.
Protein injections in medicine
One day, medical compounds could be introduced into cells with the help of bacterial toxins.
Discovery of an unusual protein
Scientists from Bremen discover an unusual protein playing a significant role in the Earth's nitrogen cycle.
Protein aggregation: Protein assemblies relevant not only for neurodegenerative disease
Amyloid fibrils play a crucial role in neurodegenerative illnesses. Scientists from Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU) and Forschungszentrum Jülich have now been able to use cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to decode the spatial structure of the fibrils that are formed from PI3K SH3 domains - an important model system for research.
Old protein, new tricks: UMD connects a protein to antibody immunity for the first time
How can a protein be a major contributor in the development of birth defects, and also hold the potential to provide symptom relief from autoimmune diseases like lupus?
Infection-fighting protein also senses protein misfolding in non-infected cells
Researchers at the University of Toronto have uncovered an immune mechanism by which host cells combat bacterial infection, and at the same time found that a protein crucial to that process can sense and respond to misfolded proteins in all mammalian cells.
More Protein News and Protein Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Flag and the Fury
How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained "officially" flying.  A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. We dive into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading. This show is a collaboration with OSM Audio. Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy is here. And the Hospitality Flag webpage is here.