Multigenerational programming in the glucocorticoid programmed rat is associated with generation-specific and parent of origin effects

Epigenetics. 2011 Nov;6(11):1334-43. doi: 10.4161/epi.6.11.17942. Epub 2011 Nov 1.


Exposure to an adverse early life environment is associated with increased cardio-metabolic disease risk, a phenomenon termed "programming." The effects of this are not limited to the exposed first (F1) generation but can be transmissible to a second generation (F2) through male and female lines. Using a three generation animal model of programming by initial prenatal glucocorticoid overexposure we have identified effects on fetal and placental weight in both the F1 and F2 offspring. However, the expression of candidate imprinted genes in the fetus and placenta differed between the F1 and F2, with marked parent-of-origin effects in F2. Since DNA methylation at imprinted genes is maintained at fertilization, they are potential templates for the transmission of programming effects across generations. Although we detected alterations in DNA methylation at differentially methylated regions (DMRs) of the key prenatal growth factor Igf2 in F1 and F2 fetal liver, the changes in DNA methylation at these DMRs do not appear to underlie the transmission of effects on Igf2 expression through sperm. Thus, multigenerational programming effects on birth weight and disease risk is associated with different processes in F1 and F2. These findings have implications for the pathogenesis and future attempts to stratify therapies for the "developmental component" of cardiometabolic disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birth Weight
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II / genetics
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Species Specificity


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II