Maternal obesogenic diet induces endometrial hyperplasia, an early hallmark of endometrial cancer, in a diethylstilbestrol mouse model

PLoS One. 2018 May 18;13(5):e0186390. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186390. eCollection 2018.


Thirty-eight percent of US adult women are obese, meaning that more children are now born of overweight and obese mothers, leading to an increase in predisposition to several adult onset diseases. To explore this phenomenon, we developed a maternal obesity animal model by feeding mice a diet composed of high fat/ high sugar (HF/HS) and assessed both maternal diet and offspring diet on the development of endometrial cancer (ECa). We show that maternal diet by itself did not lead to ECa initiation in wildtype offspring of the C57Bl/6J mouse strain. While offspring fed a HF/HS post-weaning diet resulted in poor metabolic health and decreased uterine weight (regardless of maternal diet), it did not lead to ECa. We also investigated the effects of the maternal obesogenic diet on ECa development in a Diethylstilbestrol (DES) carcinogenesis mouse model. All mice injected with DES had reproductive tract lesions including decreased number of glands, condensed and hyalinized endometrial stroma, and fibrosis and increased collagen deposition that in some mice extended into the myometrium resulting in extensive disruption and loss of the inner and outer muscular layers. Fifty percent of DES mice that were exposed to maternal HF/HS diet developed several features indicative of the initial stages of carcinogenesis including focal glandular and atypical endometrial hyperplasia versus 0% of their Chow counterparts. There was an increase in phospho-Akt expression in DES mice exposed to maternal HF/HS diet, a regulator of persistent proliferation in the endometrium, and no difference in total Akt, phospho-PTEN and total PTEN expression. In summary, maternal HF/HS diet exposure induces endometrial hyperplasia and other precancerous phenotypes in mice treated with DES. This study suggests that maternal obesity alone is not sufficient for the development of ECa, but has an additive effect in the presence of a secondary insult such as DES.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogens / toxicity
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Diethylstilbestrol / toxicity*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Endometrial Hyperplasia / etiology
  • Endometrial Hyperplasia / pathology*
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / etiology
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Female
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Metabolic Syndrome / etiology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Obesity / complications*


  • Carcinogens
  • Diethylstilbestrol