Maternal Exposure to High-Fat Diet Induces Long-Term Derepressive Chromatin Marks in the Heart

Nutrients. 2020 Jan 9;12(1):181. doi: 10.3390/nu12010181.


Heart diseases are a leading cause of death. While the link between early exposure to nutritional excess and heart disease risk is clear, the molecular mechanisms involved are poorly understood. In the developmental programming field, increasing evidence is pointing out the critical role of epigenetic mechanisms. Among them, polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) and DNA methylation play a critical role in heart development and pathogenesis. In this context, we aimed at evaluating the role of these epigenetic marks in the long-term cardiac alterations induced by early dietary challenge. Using a model of rats exposed to maternal high-fat diet during gestation and lactation, we evaluated cardiac alterations at adulthood. Expression levels of PRC2 components, its histone marks di- and trimethylated histone H3 (H3K27me2/3), associated histone mark (ubiquitinated histone H2A, H2AK119ub1) and target genes were measured by Western blot. Global DNA methylation level and DNA methyl transferase 3B (DNMT3B) protein levels were measured. Maternal high-fat diet decreased H3K27me3, H2Ak119ub1 and DNA methylation levels, down-regulated the enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2), and DNMT3B expression. The levels of the target genes, isl lim homeobox 1 (Isl1), six homeobox 1 (Six1) and mads box transcription enhancer factor 2, polypeptide C (Mef2c), involved in cardiac pathogenesis were up regulated. Overall, our data suggest that the programming of cardiac alterations by maternal exposure to high-fat diet involves the derepression of pro-fibrotic and pro-hypertrophic genes through the induction of EZH2 and DNMT3B deficiency.

Keywords: DNA methylation; development; heart; high-fat diet; polycomb repressive complex.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin* / metabolism
  • Chromatin* / pathology
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • DNA Methyltransferase 3B
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Enhancer of Zeste Homolog 2 Protein / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics
  • Female
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Myocardium* / metabolism
  • Myocardium* / pathology
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 / metabolism
  • Rats


  • Chromatin
  • Histones
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases
  • Enhancer of Zeste Homolog 2 Protein
  • Ezh2 protein, mouse
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2