Aim: To examine how enteral feeding affects the intestinal epigenome and gene expression just after preterm birth.
Materials & methods: Intestinal tissue from preterm pigs, modeling preterm infants, was collected at birth and 5 days after gradual introduction of infant formula or bovine colostrum. The intestinal tissue was analyzed by reduced representation bisulfite sequencing and real-time qPCR.
Results: Relative to colostrum, formula increased bacterial epithelial adherence and lipopolysaccharide binding protein (LBP) expression, which was regulated by promoter methylation. Diet-dependent changes in DNA methylation and/or mRNA expression were related to innate immune response, hypoxia, angiogenesis and epithelial-mesenchymal transition pathways (e.g., TTC38, IL8, C3, HIF1A and VEGFR1).
Conclusion: Epigenetic changes may mediate important effects of the first feeding on intestinal development in preterm neonates.
Keywords: DNA methylation; epigenetic gene regulation; immunity; microbiota; nutrition; preterm birth.