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Exposure to maternal obesity alters gene expression in the preimplantation ovine conceptus
McCoski, Sarah R.
Vailes, McCauley T.
Owens, Connor E.
Cockrum, Rebecca R.
Ealy, Alan D.
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Background Embryonic and fetal exposure to maternal obesity causes several maladaptive morphological and epigenetic changes in exposed offspring. The timing of these events is unclear, but changes can be observed even after a short exposure to maternal obesity around the time of conception. The hypothesis of this work is that maternal obesity influences the ovine preimplantation conceptus early in pregnancy, and this exposure will affect gene expression in embryonic and extraembryonic tissues. Results Obese and lean ewe groups were established by overfeeding or normal feeding, respectively. Ewes were then bred to genetically similar rams. Conceptuses were collected at day 14 of gestation. Morphological assessments were made, conceptuses were sexed by genomic PCR analysis, and samples underwent RNA-sequencing analysis. While no obvious morphological differences existed between conceptuses, differentially expressed genes (≥ 2-fold; ≥ 0.2 RPKM; ≤ 0.05 FDR) were detected based on maternal obesity exposure (n = 21). Also, differential effects of maternal obesity were noted on each conceptus sex (n = 347). A large portion of differentially expressed genes were associated with embryogenesis and placental development. Conclusions Findings reveal that the preimplantation ovine conceptus genome responds to maternal obesity in a sex-dependent manner. The sexual dimorphism in response to the maternal environment coupled with changes in placental gene expression may explain aberrations in phenotype observed in offspring derived from obese females.