While many studies have shown that maternal factors in pregnancy affect the cancer risk for offspring, few studies have investigated the impact of paternal exposures on their progeny’s risk of this disease. Population studies generally show a U-shaped association between birthweight and breast cancer risk, with both high and low birthweight increasing the risk compared with average birthweight. Here, we investigated whether paternal malnutrition would modulate the birthweight and later breast cancer risk of daughters.
Male mice were fed AIN93G-based diets containing either 17.7% (control) or 8.9% (low-protein (LP)) energy from protein from 3 to 10 weeks of age. Males on either group were mated to females raised on a control diet. Female offspring from control and LP fathers were treated with 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA) to initiate mammary carcinogenesis. Mature sperm from fathers and mammary tissue and tumors from female offspring were used for epigenetic and other molecular analyses.
We found that paternal malnutrition reduces the birthweight of daughters and leads to epigenetic and metabolic reprogramming of their mammary tissue and tumors. Daughters of LP fathers have higher rates of mammary cancer, with tumors arising earlier and growing faster than in controls. The energy sensor, the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) pathway, is suppressed in both mammary glands and tumors of LP daughters, with consequent activation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling. Furthermore, LP mammary tumors show altered amino-acid metabolism with increased glutamine utilization. These changes are linked to alterations in noncoding RNAs regulating those pathways in mammary glands and tumors. Importantly, we detect alterations in some of the same microRNAs/target genes found in our animal model in breast tumors of women from populations where low birthweight is prevalent.
Our study suggests that ancestral paternal malnutrition plays a role in programming offspring cancer risk and phenotype by likely providing a metabolic advantage to cancer cells.||