Cover Story Current Issue

The prevalence of obesity and type II diabetes is growing globally at rates indicating that environment rather than genes is the principal driver. Exposures to high-fat diet and toxicants, as well as micronutrient deficiency, can impact our health and that of future generations. Only now are we beginning to identify mechanisms linking these exposures to parental and offspring health. One connection between environment and health is the epigenome. The epigenome refers to the biochemical content associated with DNA that impacts gene expression and chromatin organization. Uncovering how genomic information is organized and regulated through epigenetic processes to control gene expression and cell functions in the next generation is still in a nascent stage. 

Anne-Sophie Pepin, Christine Lafleur, Romain Lambrot, Vanessa Dumeaux, Sarah Kimmins

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Current Issue

Sperm histone H3 lysine 4 tri-methylation serves as a metabolic sensor of paternal obesity and is associated with the inheritance of metabolic dysfunction

Anne-Sophie Pepin, Christine Lafleur, Romain Lambrot, Vanessa Dumeaux, Sarah Kimmins

 

Objective

Parental environmental exposures can strongly influence descendant risks for adult disease. How paternal obesity changes the sperm chromatin leading to the acquisition of metabolic disease in offspring remains controversial and ill-defined. The objective of this study was to assess (1) whether obesity induced by a high-fat diet alters sperm histone methylation; (2) whether paternal obesity can induce metabolic disturbances across generations; (3) whether there could be cumulative damage to the sperm epigenome leading to enhanced metabolic dysfunction in descendants; and (4) whether obesity-sensitive regions associate with embryonic epigenetic and transcriptomicprofiles. Using a genetic mouse model of epigenetic inheritance, we investigated the role of histone H3 lysine 4 methylation (H3K4me3) in the paternal transmission of metabolic dysfunction. This transgenic mouseoverexpresses the histone demethylase enzyme KDM1A in the developing germline and has an altered sperm epigenome at the level of histone H3K4 methylation. We hypothesized that challenging transgenic sires with a high-fat diet would further erode the sperm epigenome and lead to enhanced metabolic disturbances in the next generations.

Methods

To assess whether paternal obesity can have inter- or transgenerational impacts, and if so to identify potential mechanisms of this non-genetic inheritance, we used wild-type C57BL/6NCrl and transgenic males with a pre-existing altered sperm epigenome. To induce obesity, sires were fed either a control or high-fat diet (10% or 60% kcal fat, respectively) for 10–12 weeks, then bred to wild-type C57BL/6NCrl females fed a regular diet. F1 and F2descendants were characterized for metabolic phenotypes by examining the effects of paternal obesity by sex, on body weight, fat mass distribution, the liver transcriptome, intraperitoneal glucose, and insulin tolerance tests. To determine whether obesity altered the F0 sperm chromatin, native chromatin immunoprecipitation-sequencing targeting H3K4me3 was performed. To gain insight into mechanisms of paternal transmission, we compared our sperm H3K4me3 profiles with embryonic and placental chromatin states, histone modification, and gene expression profiles.

Results

Obesity-induced alterations in H3K4me3 occurred in genes implicated in metabolic, inflammatory, and developmental processes. These processes were associated with offspring metabolic dysfunction and corresponded to genes enriched for H3K4me3 in embryos and overlapped embryonic and placentagene expression profiles. Transgenerational susceptibility to metabolic disease was only observed when obese F0 had a pre-existing modified sperm epigenome. This coincided with increased H3K4me3 alterations in sperm and more severe phenotypes affecting their offspring.

Conclusions

Our data suggest sperm H3K4me3 might serve as a metabolic sensor that connects paternal diet with offspring phenotypes via the placenta. This non-DNA-based knowledge of inheritance has the potential to improve our understanding of how environment shapes heritability and may lead to novel routes for the prevention of disease. This study highlights the need to further study the connection between the sperm epigenome, placental development, and children's health.

Summary sentence

Paternal obesity impacts sperm H3K4me3 and is associated with placenta, embryonic and metabolic outcomes in descendants.

 

Sperm histone H3 lysine 4 tri-methylation serves as a metabolic sensor of paternal obesity and is associated with the inheritance of metabolic dysfunction

Anne-Sophie Pepin, Christine Lafleur, Romain Lambrot, Vanessa Dumeaux, Sarah Kimmins

 

Objective

Parental environmental exposures can strongly influence descendant risks for adult disease. How paternal obesity changes the sperm chromatin leading to the acquisition of metabolic disease in offspring remains controversial and ill-defined. The objective of this study was to assess (1) whether obesity induced by a high-fat diet alters sperm histone methylation; (2) whether paternal obesity can induce metabolic disturbances across generations; (3) whether there could be cumulative damage to the sperm epigenome leading to enhanced metabolic dysfunction in descendants; and (4) whether obesity-sensitive regions associate with embryonic epigenetic and transcriptomicprofiles. Using a genetic mouse model of epigenetic inheritance, we investigated the role of histone H3 lysine 4 methylation (H3K4me3) in the paternal transmission of metabolic dysfunction. This transgenic mouseoverexpresses the histone demethylase enzyme KDM1A in the developing germline and has an altered sperm epigenome at the level of histone H3K4 methylation. We hypothesized that challenging transgenic sires with a high-fat diet would further erode the sperm epigenome and lead to enhanced metabolic disturbances in the next generations.

Methods

To assess whether paternal obesity can have inter- or transgenerational impacts, and if so to identify potential mechanisms of this non-genetic inheritance, we used wild-type C57BL/6NCrl and transgenic males with a pre-existing altered sperm epigenome. To induce obesity, sires were fed either a control or high-fat diet (10% or 60% kcal fat, respectively) for 10–12 weeks, then bred to wild-type C57BL/6NCrl females fed a regular diet. F1 and F2descendants were characterized for metabolic phenotypes by examining the effects of paternal obesity by sex, on body weight, fat mass distribution, the liver transcriptome, intraperitoneal glucose, and insulin tolerance tests. To determine whether obesity altered the F0 sperm chromatin, native chromatin immunoprecipitation-sequencing targeting H3K4me3 was performed. To gain insight into mechanisms of paternal transmission, we compared our sperm H3K4me3 profiles with embryonic and placental chromatin states, histone modification, and gene expression profiles.

Results

Obesity-induced alterations in H3K4me3 occurred in genes implicated in metabolic, inflammatory, and developmental processes. These processes were associated with offspring metabolic dysfunction and corresponded to genes enriched for H3K4me3 in embryos and overlapped embryonic and placentagene expression profiles. Transgenerational susceptibility to metabolic disease was only observed when obese F0 had a pre-existing modified sperm epigenome. This coincided with increased H3K4me3 alterations in sperm and more severe phenotypes affecting their offspring.

Conclusions

Our data suggest sperm H3K4me3 might serve as a metabolic sensor that connects paternal diet with offspring phenotypes via the placenta. This non-DNA-based knowledge of inheritance has the potential to improve our understanding of how environment shapes heritability and may lead to novel routes for the prevention of disease. This study highlights the need to further study the connection between the sperm epigenome, placental development, and children's health.

Summary sentence

Paternal obesity impacts sperm H3K4me3 and is associated with placenta, embryonic and metabolic outcomes in descendants.

 

2021 impact factor: 7.422

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