Preconception diet or exercise intervention in obese fathers normalizes sperm microRNA profile and metabolic syndrome in female offspring

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2015 May 1;308(9):E805-21. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00013.2015. Epub 2015 Feb 17.


Obesity and type 2 diabetes are increasingly prevalent across all demographics. Paternal obesity in humans and rodents can program obesity and impair insulin sensitivity in female offspring. It remains to be determined whether these perturbed offspring phenotypes can be improved through targeted lifestyle interventions in the obese father. Using a mouse model, we demonstrate that diet or exercise interventions for 8 wk (2 rounds of spermatogenesis) in obese founder males restores insulin sensitivity and normalized adiposity in female offspring. Founder diet and/or exercise also normalizes abundance of X-linked sperm microRNAs that target genes regulating cell cycle and apoptosis, pathways central to oocyte and early embryogenesis. Additionally, obesity-associated comorbidities, including inflammation, glucose intolerance, stress, and hypercholesterolemia, were good predictors for sperm microRNA abundance and offspring phenotypes. Interventions aimed at improving paternal metabolic health during specific windows prior to conception can partially normalize aberrant epigenetic signals in sperm and improve the metabolic health of female offspring.

Keywords: fertility; infertility; interventions; obesity; paternal programming.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Fathers*
  • Female
  • Fertilization / physiology
  • Infertility, Male / genetics
  • Infertility, Male / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism
  • Metabolic Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Obese
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Obesity* / genetics
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / genetics
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / metabolism
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism*
  • Transcriptome


  • MicroRNAs