The recent and rapid worldwide increase in non-communicable diseases challenges the assumption that genetic factors are the primary contributors to such diseases. A new concept of the 'developmental origins of health and disease' (DOHaD) is at stake and therefore requires a paradigm shift. Maternal obesity and malnutrition predispose offspring to develop metabolic syndrome, a vicious cycle leading to transmission to subsequent generation(s), with differences in response and susceptibility according to the sex of the individual. The placenta is a programming agent of adult health and disease. Adaptations of placental phenotype in response to maternal diet and metabolic status alter fetal nutrient supply. This implies important epigenetic changes that are, however, still poorly documented in DOHaD studies, particularly concerning overnutrition. The aim of this review is to discuss the emerging knowledge on the relationships between the effect of maternal nutrition or metabolic status on placental function and the risk of diseases later in life, with a specific focus on epigenetic mechanisms and sexual dimorphism. Explaining the sex-specific causal variables and how males versus females respond and adapt to environmental perturbations should help physicians and patients to anticipate disease susceptibility.
- Epigenesis, Genetic
- Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
- Sex Characteristics
- Journal Article
- Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't