Maternal diet disrupts the placenta-brain axis in a sex-specific manner.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

High maternal weight is associated with detrimental outcomes in offspring, including increased susceptibility to neurological disorders such as anxiety, depression and communicative disorders. Despite widespread acknowledgement of sex biases in the development of these disorders, few studies have investigated potential sex-biased mechanisms underlying disorder susceptibility. Here, we show that a maternal high-fat diet causes endotoxin accumulation in fetal tissue, and subsequent perinatal inflammation contributes to sex-specific behavioural outcomes in offspring. In male offspring exposed to a maternal high-fat diet, increased macrophage Toll-like receptor 4 signalling results in excess microglial phagocytosis of serotonin (5-HT) neurons in the developing dorsal raphe nucleus, decreasing 5-HT bioavailability in the fetal and adult brains. Bulk sequencing from a large cohort of matched first-trimester human samples reveals sex-specific transcriptome-wide changes in placental and brain tissue in response to maternal triglyceride accumulation (a proxy for dietary fat content). Further, fetal brain 5-HT levels decrease as placental triglycerides increase in male mice and male human samples. These findings uncover a microglia-dependent mechanism through which maternal diet can impact offspring susceptibility for neuropsychiatric disorder development in a sex-specific manner.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Ceasrine, AM; Devlin, BA; Bolton, JL; Green, LA; Jo, YC; Huynh, C; Patrick, B; Washington, K; Sanchez, CL; Joo, F; Campos-Salazar, AB; Lockshin, ER; Kuhn, C; Murphy, SK; Simmons, LA; Bilbo, SD

Published Date

  • December 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 4 / 12

Start / End Page

  • 1732 - 1745

PubMed ID

  • 36443520

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2522-5812

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/s42255-022-00693-8


  • eng

Conference Location

  • Germany