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DNA methylation: the pivotal interaction between early-life nutrition and glucose metabolism in later life

  • Jia Zheng (a1), Xinhua Xiao (a1), Qian Zhang (a1) and Miao Yu (a1)

Traditionally, it has been widely acknowledged that genes together with adult lifestyle factors determine the risk of developing some metabolic diseases such as insulin resistance, obesity and diabetes mellitus in later life. However, there is now substantial evidence that prenatal and early-postnatal nutrition play a critical role in determining susceptibility to these diseases in later life. Maternal nutrition has historically been a key determinant for offspring health, and gestation is the critical time window that can affect the growth and development of offspring. The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) hypothesis proposes that exposures during early life play a critical role in determining the risk of developing metabolic diseases in adulthood. Currently, there are substantial epidemiological studies and experimental animal models that have demonstrated that nutritional disturbances during the critical periods of early-life development can significantly have an impact on the predisposition to developing some metabolic diseases in later life. The hypothesis that epigenetic mechanisms may link imbalanced early-life nutrition with altered disease risk has been widely accepted in recent years. Epigenetics can be defined as the study of heritable changes in gene expression that do not involve alterations in the DNA sequence. Epigenetic processes play a significant role in regulating tissue-specific gene expression, and hence alterations in these processes may induce long-term changes in gene function and metabolism that persist throughout the life course. The present review focuses on how nutrition in early life can alter the epigenome, produce different phenotypes and alter disease susceptibilities, especially for impaired glucose metabolism.

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Corresponding author
* Corresponding author: X. Xiao, fax +86 10 69155073, email
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