Maternal obesity blunts antimicrobial responses in fetal monocytes

Elife. 2023 Jan 16:12:e81320. doi: 10.7554/eLife.81320.


Maternal pre-pregnancy (pregravid) obesity is associated with adverse outcomes for both mother and offspring. Amongst the complications for the offspring is increased susceptibility and severity of neonatal infections necessitating admission to the intensive care unit, notably bacterial sepsis and enterocolitis. Previous studies have reported aberrant responses to LPS and polyclonal stimulation by umbilical cord blood monocytes that were mediated by alterations in the epigenome. In this study, we show that pregravid obesity dysregulates umbilical cord blood monocyte responses to bacterial and viral pathogens. Specifically, interferon-stimulated gene expression and inflammatory responses to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and E. coli were significantly dampened, respectively . Although upstream signaling events were comparable, translocation of the key transcription factor NF-κB and chromatin accessibility at pro-inflammatory gene promoters following TLR stimulation was significantly attenuated. Using a rhesus macaque model of western style diet-induced obesity, we further demonstrate that this defect is detected in fetal peripheral monocytes and tissue-resident macrophages during gestation. Collectively, these data indicate that maternal obesity alters metabolic, signaling, and epigenetic profiles of fetal monocytes leading to a state of immune paralysis during late gestation and at birth.

Keywords: chromosomes; epigenome; gene expression; human; immunology; inflammation; monocytes/macrophrages; obesity; pregnancy; rhesus macaque; transcriptome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents*
  • Escherichia coli
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Monocytes
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity, Maternal*
  • Pregnancy


  • Anti-Infective Agents