Rationale: Greater levels of prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) have been associated with childhood obesity in epidemiological studies. However, the underlying mechanisms are unclear.
Objectives: We hypothesized that prenatal PAH over-exposure during gestation would lead to weight gain and increased fat mass in offspring and grand-offspring mice. Further, we hypothesized that altered adipose gene expression and DNA methylation in genes important to adipocyte differentiation would be affected.
Materials and Methods: Pregnant dams were exposed to a nebulized PAH mixture versus negative control aerosol 5 days a week, for 3 weeks. Body weight was recorded from postnatal day (PND) 21 through PND60. Body composition, adipose cell size, gene expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)γ, CCAAT/enhancer-binding proteins (C/EBP)α, cyclooxygenase (Cox)-2, fatty acid synthase (FAS) and adiponectin, and DNA methylation of PPAR γ, were assayed in both the offspring and grand-offspring adipose tissue.
Findings: Offspring of dams exposed to greater PAH during gestation had increased weight, fat mass, as well as higher gene expression of PPAR γ, C/EBP α, Cox2, FAS and adiponectin and lower DNA methylation of PPAR γ. Similar differences in phenotype and DNA methylation extended through the grand-offspring mice.
Conclusions: Greater prenatal PAH exposure was associated with increased weight, fat mass, adipose gene expression and epigenetic changes in progeny.
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