Background/objectives: Maternal obesity increases the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), which results in fetal overgrowth and long-lasting metabolic dysfunctioning in the offspring. Previous studies show that maternal choline supplementation normalizes fetal growth and adiposity of progeny from obese mice. This study examines whether supplementation of betaine, a choline derivative, has positive effects on fetal metabolic outcomes in mouse progeny exposed to maternal obesity and GDM.
Methods: C57BL/6J mice were fed either a high-fat (HF) diet or a control (normal-fat, NF) diet and received either 1% betaine (BS) or control untreated (BC) drinking water 4–6 weeks before timed-mating and throughout gestation. Maternal, placental, and fetal samples were collected for metabolite and gene-expression assays.
Results: At E12.5, BS prevented fetal and placental overgrowth and downregulated glucose and fatty acid transporters (Glut1 and Fatp1) and the growth-promoting insulin-like growth factor 2 (Igf2) and its receptor Igf1r in the placenta of HF, glucose-intolerant dams (P < 0.05). However, these effects disappeared at E17.5. At E17.5, BS reduced fetal adiposity and prevented liver triglyceride overaccumulation in HF versus NF fetuses (P < 0.05). BS fetal livers had enhanced mRNA expression of microsomal triglyceride transfer protein (Mttp) (P < 0.01), which promotes VLDL synthesis and secretion. Although we previously reported that maternal choline supplementation downregulated mRNA expression of genes involved in de novo lipogenesis in fetal livers, such alterations were not observed with BS, suggesting differential effects of betaine and choline on fetal gene expression.
Conclusion: We propose a temporal-specific mechanism by which maternal BS influences fetal growth and lipid metabolic outcomes of HF mice during prenatal development.