Maternal transfer of fatty acids is important to fetal brain development. The prenatal environment may differentially affect the substrates supporting declarative memory abilities, as the level of fatty acids transferred across the placenta may be affected by the maternal fatty acid desaturase 2 (FADS2) rs174575 single nucleotide polymorphism. In this study, we hypothesized that toddler and maternal rs174575 genotype and FADS2 promoter methylation would be related to the toddlers' declarative memory performance. Seventy-one 16-month-old toddlers participated in an imitation paradigm designed to test immediate and long-term declarative memory abilities. FADS2 rs174575 genotype was determined and FADS2 promoter methylation was quantified from blood by bisulfite pyrosequencing for the toddlers and their natural mothers. Toddlers of GG mothers at the FADS2 rs174575 single nucleotide polymorphism did not perform as well on memory assessments as toddlers of CC or CG mothers when controlling for plasma α-linolenic acid and child genotype. Toddler methylation status was related to immediate memory performance, whereas maternal methylation status was related to delayed memory performance. Thus, prenatal experience and maternal FADS2 status have a pervasive, long-lasting influence on the brain development of the offspring, but as the postnatal environment becomes more primary, the offsprings' own biology begins to have an effect.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01634776.
Keywords: Cognitive development; DNA methylation; Declarative memory; Deferred imitation; FADS; Fatty acids; Toddlers.
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