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Maternal diet as a modifier of offspring epigenetics

  • K. A. Lillycrop (a1) and G. C. Burdge (a2)


There has been a substantial body of evidence, which has shown that genetic variation is an important determinant of disease risk. However, there is now increasing evidence that alterations in epigenetic processes also play a role in determining susceptibility to disease. Epigenetic processes, which include DNA methylation, histone modifications and non-coding RNAs play a central role in regulating gene expression, determining when and where a gene is expressed as well as the level of gene expression. The epigenome is highly sensitive to a variety of environmental factors, especially in early life. One factor that has been shown consistently to alter the epigenome is maternal diet. This review will focus on how maternal diet can modify the epigenome of the offspring, producing different phenotypes and altered disease susceptibilities.

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Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Dr K. A. Lillycrop, Institute of Developmental Sciences Building (MP887), Southampton General Hospital, Tremona Road, Southampton, SO16 6YD, UK. (Email


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