Intergenerational Transmission of Diet-Induced Obesity, Metabolic Imbalance, and Osteoarthritis in Mice

Arthritis Rheumatol. 2020 Apr;72(4):632-644. doi: 10.1002/art.41147. Epub 2020 Mar 5.


Objective: Obesity and osteoarthritis (OA) are 2 major public health issues affecting millions of people worldwide. Whereas parental obesity affects the predisposition to diseases such as cancer or diabetes in children, transgenerational influences on musculoskeletal conditions such as OA are poorly understood. This study was undertaken to assess the intergenerational effects of a parental/grandparental high-fat diet on the metabolic and skeletal phenotype, systemic inflammation, and predisposition to OA in 2 generations of offspring in mice.

Methods: Metabolic phenotype and predisposition to OA were investigated in the first and second (F1 and F2) generations of offspring (n = 10-16 mice per sex per diet) bred from mice fed a high-fat diet (HFD) or a low-fat control diet. OA was induced by destabilizing the medial meniscus. OA, synovitis, and adipose tissue inflammation were determined histologically, while bone changes were measured using micro-computed tomography. Serum and synovial cytokines were measured by multiplex assay.

Results: Parental high-fat feeding showed an intergenerational effect, with inheritance of increased weight gain (up to 19% in the F1 generation and 9% in F2), metabolic imbalance, and injury-induced OA in at least 2 generations of mice, despite the fact that the offspring were fed the low-fat diet. Strikingly, both F1 and F2 female mice showed an increased predisposition to injury-induced OA (48% higher predisposition in F1 and 19% in F2 female mice fed the HFD) and developed bone microarchitectural changes that were attributable to parental and grandparental high-fat feeding.

Conclusion: The results of this study reveal a detrimental effect of parental HFD and obesity on the musculoskeletal integrity of 2 generations of offspring, indicating the importance of further investigation of these effects. An improved understanding of the mechanisms involved in the transmissibility of diet-induced changes through multiple generations may help in the development of future therapies that would target the effects of obesity on OA and related conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Diet, High-Fat*
  • Female
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Osteoarthritis / genetics*
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism
  • Weight Gain / genetics*