The liver plays a central role in regulating lipid metabolism and facilitates efficient lipid utilization and storage. We discovered that a modest increase in maternal dietary fat in mice programs triglyceride storage in the liver of their developing offspring. The activation of this programming is not apparent, however, until several months later at the adult stage. We found that the perinatal programming of adult hepatic triglyceride storage was controlled by the eIF2α kinase GCN2 (EIF2AK4) in the brain of the offspring, which stimulates epigenetic modification of the Pparγ2 gene in the neonatal liver. Genetic ablation of Gcn2 in the offspring exhibited reduced hepatic triglyceride storage and repressed expression of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma 2 (Pparγ2) and two lipid droplet protein genes, Fsp27 and Cidea. Brain-specific, but not liver-specific, Gcn2 KO mice exhibit these same defects demonstrating that GCN2 in the developing brain programs hepatic triglyceride storage. GCN2 and nutrition-dependent programming of Pparγ2 is correlated with trimethylation of lysine 4 of histone 3 (H3K4me3) in the Pparγ2 promoter region during neonatal development. In addition to regulating hepatic triglyceride in response to modest changes in dietary fat, Gcn2 deficiency profoundly impacts the severity of the obese-diabetic phenotype of the leptin receptor mutant (db/db) mouse, by reducing hepatic steatosis and obesity but exacerbating the diabetic phenotype. We suggest that GCN2-dependent perinatal programming of hepatic triglyceride storage is an adaptation to couple early nutrition to anticipated needs for hepatic triglyceride storage in adults. However, increasing the hepatic triglyceride set point during perinatal development may predispose individuals to hepatosteatosis, while reducing circulating fatty acid levels that promote insulin resistance.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Agricultural and Biological Sciences