Nutritional Stress and Fetal Epigenetics in the Brain

  • Qingyi MaEmail author
  • Lubo Zhang
Reference work entry


The developing brain is vulnerable to various adverse environmental conditions during early pregnancy. Maternal nutrition is considered as one of the most influential environmental factors during fetal brain development. The imbalance of maternal diet affects trajectories of neurologic process development and disrupts the architecture of fetal brain, thus leading to increased susceptibility of brain to neurological disorders later in life. Epigenetic mechanisms are essential for the developing brain reprograming and have been determined to underpin the environmental stress-induced fetal origins of adult diseases. Overwhelming evidence obtained from epidemiological studies in humans and experimental studies in maternal nutrition-restriction animal models has indicated that the effects of maternal nutrition on the epigenome and phenotype alternations in offspring are mediated by epigenetic mechanisms. Current studies focusing on immature brain development also showed that maternal malnutrition, such as over-/undernutrition and specific component deficiency, affects fetal brain development via deregulation of epigenetic mechanisms. Thus, the better understanding to the mechanisms of maternal nutrition stress in fetal brain development will potentially lead to early diagnosis and effective treatment for neurological diseases later in life.


Fetal origins of adult disease Maternal malnutrition Fetal brain development Neurodevelopment Neurological disorders Epigenetic modifications DNA methylation/demethylation Histone code Noncoding RNA Methyl donors 

List of Abbreviations






Angiotensin-converting enzyme-1


α-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptor


Angiopoietin 2


Viable yellow agouti


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor


Cyclin-dependent kinases 3


Dopamine reuptake transporter


DNA methyltransferases


Glucocorticoid receptor


Histone deacetylases


Imprinting control region


Insulin-like growth factor 2


IGF2 differentially methylated region


Kinase-associated phosphatase


Methyl-CpG-binding proteins


μ-Opioid receptor


Neural progenitor cells




Primordial germ cells


Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor


Rett syndrome






Sonic hedgehog


Subventricular zone


Ten-eleven translocation methylcytosine dioxygenase 1


Vascular endothelial growth factor-C


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Perinatal Biology, Division of Pharmacology, Department of Basic SciencesLoma Linda University, School of MedicineLoma LindaUSA

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