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Hepatic IGF1 DNA methylation is influenced by gender but not by intrauterine growth restriction in the young lamb

  • D. J. Carr (a1) (a2), J. S. Milne (a1), R. P. Aitken (a1), C. L. Adam (a1) and J. M. Wallace (a1)...

Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and postnatal catch-up growth confer an increased risk of adult-onset disease. Overnourishment of adolescent ewes generates IUGR in ∼50% of lambs, which subsequently exhibit increased fractional growth rates. We investigated putative epigenetic changes underlying this early postnatal phenotype by quantifying gene-specific methylation at cytosine:guanine (CpG) dinucleotides. Hepatic DNA/RNA was extracted from IUGR [eight male (M)/nine female (F)] and normal birth weight (12 M/9 F) lambs. Polymerase chain reaction was performed using primers targeting CpG islands in 10 genes: insulin, growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF)1, IGF2, H19, insulin receptor, growth hormone receptor, IGF receptors 1 and 2, and the glucocorticoid receptor. Using pyrosequencing, methylation status was determined by quantifying cytosine:thymine ratios at 57 CpG sites. Messenger RNA (mRNA) expression of IGF system genes and plasma IGF1/insulin were determined. DNA methylation was independent of IUGR status but sexual dimorphism in IGF1 methylation was evident (M<F, P=0.008). IGF1 mRNA:18S and plasma IGF1 were M>F (both P<0.001). IGF1 mRNA expression correlated negatively with IGF1 methylation (r=−0.507, P=0.002) and positively with plasma IGF1 (r=0.884, P<0.001). Carcass and empty body weights were greater in males (P=0.002–0.014) and this gender difference in early body conformation was mirrored by sexual dimorphism in hepatic IGF1 DNA methylation, mRNA expression and plasma IGF1 concentrations.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Dr D. J. Carr, Prenatal Cell and Gene Therapy Group, UCL Institute for Women’s Health, University College London, 86-96 Chenies Mews, London WC1E 6HX, UK. (Email
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