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55 Peri-conceptional undernourishment perturbs offspring sperm methylome

P. Toschi, E. Capra, D. Anzalone, F. Turri, F. Pizzi, B. Lazzari, A. Stella, P. Ajmone-Marsan, P. Loi
Reproduction, fertility, and development 2019 v.31 no.1 pp. 153
DNA methylation, adults, animal models, biotin, bisulfites, blastocyst, body weight, chondroitin sulfate, chromatin, conception, diet, embryogenesis, epigenetics, flow cytometry, folic acid, gene ontology, genotype, glucagon, inheritance (genetics), ion transport, lambs, malnutrition, maternal exposure, maternal nutrition, metabolism, mothers, nutrient availability, phenotype, potassium, progeny, rams, semen, sequence analysis, sperm motility, spermatozoa
Whereas an organism’s genotype is relatively static throughout life, the epigenome is highly dynamic and can adapt, or be altered, in response to the external environment such as diet. Intrauterine exposure to nutrient availability can alter the establishment of epigenetic marks, not only in the exposed individuals, but also in their offspring. Inheritance of such an environmentally acquired phenotype by the subsequent generation occurs through epigenetic modifications in the germline. Here, using a genome-wide approach, we evaluate how modification of the maternal diet pre- (14 days) and post- (28 days) conception can affect methylation status of the sperm of male offspring. Specifically, using a sheep model, we focused on the effect of maternal undernutrition on adult sperm methylation and its long-term consequences on sperm physiology and quality. Moreover, we investigated if supplementation of folic acid, to increase the availability of methyl donors, could prevent or ameliorate the adverse uterine environment caused by maternal undernutrition. Male lambs obtained from mothers subjected to different nutritional regimens (UND: undernutrition; FA: undernutrition and folic acid supplementation) appeared normal at birth, with a comparable body weight until Day 30 postpartum. Sperm DNA methylation, obtained by reduced representation bisulfite sequencing, differed in offspring that experienced in utero undernutrition (UND and FA) compared with the control group (CTR). In particular, the number of differentially methylated regions (DMR) was lower when UND and FA groups were compared, whereas a higher number of DMR was observed by comparison of CTR with both experimental groups. In addition, a high percentage of DMR were shared between UND and FA groups when compared with CTR, clearly indicating a influence of maternal nutrition on the offspring sperm DNA methylation rearrangement. Gene ontology (GO) analysis showed variation in functional categories related to sperm functionality such as chondroitin sulfate synthesis, potassium ion import, and others related to metabolism (biotin and glucagon). Furthermore, using computer-assisted semen analysis and flow cytometric measurement, we observed lower a sperm motility index and higher incidence of chromatin structure alterations in spermatozoa collected from UND and FA groups compared with CTR. Finally, to verify the effect of such reported abnormality on lamb fertility, we used the semen for in vitro embryo production. While we obtained good quality blastocysts from all 3 groups, a reduction in the percentage of embryo development, partially compensated in the FA group, was found using spermatozoa from UND rams. Taken together, our results confirm that a nutritional stress during early mammalian development can lead to epigenetic modification in the offspring. This damage can be partially ameliorated with folic acid supplementation; however, some alteration still persists in the germline and could be passed to the next generation, with as yet unknown consequences.