This study investigated the effects of maternal body condition on oocyte quality and zygote production. Additionally, we examined the possible consequences on somatic parameters and behavior of naturally delivered offspring. We used an experimental model based on overfeeding of outbred mice during intrauterine and early postnatal development to produce the following four types of females: physiological (7%-8%), slightly increased (8%-11%), highly increased (>11%), and low (<7%) body fat content (Echo Magnetic Resonance Imaging). The fertilized females with slightly increased body fat showed increased numbers of spontaneously ovulated oocytes and an increased fertilization index compared with control animals. On the contrary, mice with slightly and highly increased body fat showed increased numbers of isolated immature oocytes and degenerates. Furthermore, animals with increased body fat had significantly decreased deposits of neutral lipids in the cytoplasm of mature oocytes (Nile red staining) and showed lower reduction in DNA cytosine methylation signal in parental pronuclei (5-methylcytosine immunohistochemistry). The highly increased amount of body fat in mothers was accompanied with lower weights in newborn pups and 5-week-old offspring. We also observed several deviations from normal behavior (open-field test and forced swimming test). The females with low body fat displayed a lower fertilization index, a lower percentage of zygotes at pronuclear stage 4 with demethylated DNA cytosine in parental pronuclei, and lower newborn weights. Although delivered offspring were able to gain normal weight by the fifth week of life, there were several deviations from normal behavior observed. Our results show that periconceptional status of maternal body condition adversely affects the quality of oocytes and might be correlated with significant changes during postnatal offspring development. The data documenting later onset of DNA demethylation in zygotes and decreased amounts of neutral lipids in oocytes suggest that the observed alterations in offspring might originate in modifications established at the earliest stages of conceptus development.
Keywords: DNA methylation; Fat deposit; Offspring behavior; Oocyte; Zygote.
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