Maternal obesity downregulates microRNA let-7g expression, a possible mechanism for enhanced adipogenesis during ovine fetal skeletal muscle development

X. Yan, Y. Huang, J. X. Zhao, C. J. Rogers, M. J. Zhu, S. P. Ford, P. W. Nathanielsz, M. Du

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Background:Obesity in women of childbearing age is increasing at an alarming rate. Growing evidence shows that maternal obesity induces detrimental effects on offspring health, including pre-disposition to obesity. We have shown that maternal obesity increases fetal intramuscular adipogenesis at mid-gestation. However, the mechanisms are poorly understood. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate mRNA stability. We hypothesized that maternal obesity alters fetal muscle miRNA expression, thereby influencing intramuscular adipogenesis.Methods: Non-pregnant ewes received a control diet (Con, fed 100% of National Research Council (NRC) recommendations, n=6) or obesogenic diet (OB; 150% NRC recommendations, n=6) from 60 days before to 75 days after conception when the fetal longissimus dorsi (LD) muscle was sampled and miRNA expression analyzed by miRNA microarray. One of miRNAs with differential expression between Con and OB fetal muscle, let-7g, was further tested for its role in adipogenesis and cell proliferation in C3H10T1/2 cells.Results:A total of 155 miRNAs were found with a signal above 500, among which, three miRNAs, hsa-miR-381, hsa-let-7g and bta-miR-376d, were differentially expressed between Con and OB fetuses, and confirmed by quantitative real-time PCR (QRT-PCR) analyses. Reduced expression of miRNA let-7g, an abundantly expressed miRNA, in OB fetal muscle was correlated with higher expression of its target genes. Overexpression of let-7g in C3H10T1/2 cells reduced their proliferation rate. Expression of adipogenic markers decreased in cells overexpressing let-7g, and the formation of adipocytes was also reduced. Overexpression of let-7g decreased expression of inflammatory cytokines.Conclusion:Fetal muscle miRNA expression was altered due to maternal obesity, and let-7g downregulation may enhance intramuscular adipogenesis during fetal muscle development in the setting of maternal obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)568-575
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • adipocyte
  • adipogenesis
  • let-7g
  • maternal obesity
  • microRNA
  • muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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