My research focuses on the effect of maternal diet on offspring obesity risk. Since obesity rates have nearly tripled in the last 50 years, there is more second-generation obesity than ever before. Therefore, it is important to understand the impact that maternal obesity has on health. Studies in animals—from flies to mice to humans—have shown that exposure to a high fat diet during early development can have consequences lasting into adulthood. But how does this fetal metabolic programming occur? To investigate this question, I have fed genetically-identical female mice a high fat or low fat diet before and during pregnancy. Then, I fed half of each mother’s pups a high fat diet, and the rest a low fat diet. As the pups grew up, I collected data on their weight, glucose tolerance, insulin, activity levels, and a host of other traits. I also extracted RNA and DNA from their livers and now have genome-wide gene expression and methylation data. My thesis work aims to identify how a mother’s diet changes her offspring’s gene expression, and to determine which of those changes are mediated by changes in DNA methylation.
Buescher, J. L., L. P. Musselman, C. A. Wilson, T. Lang, M. Keleher, T. J. Baranski, and J. G. Duncan. 2013. Evidence for transgenerational metabolic programming in Drosophila. Dis Model Mech 6(5): 1123-32.