Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Folic acid deficiency can affect the health of great, great grandchildren

Date:
September 26, 2013
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
A study reveals that a mutation in a gene necessary for the metabolism of folic acid not only impacts the immediate offspring but can also have detrimental health effects on the next several generations.

Folic acid deficiency can cause severe health problems in offspring, including spina bifida, heart defects and placental abnormalities. A study out today reveals that a mutation in a gene necessary for the metabolism of folic acid not only impacts the immediate offspring but can also have detrimental health effects on the next several generations. The new research, which also sheds light on the molecular mechanism of folic acid (also known as folate) during development, was published today in the journal Cell.

Related Articles


"Although our research focused on genetic mutations which disrupts the break down and metabolism of folic acid, we believe that folic acid deficiency in the diet would have a similar multi-generational impact on health," said Dr Erica Watson from the Centre for Trophoblast Research at the University of Cambridge, who led the study.

The detrimental effects of folic acid deficiency on development are quite well known. As a result, many countries, to include Canada and the US, have implemented folate fortification programmes which require folic acid to be added to cereal products. However, until now, very little was known about how folic acid deficiency caused the diverse range of health problems in offspring.

"Fortification programmes have reduced the risk of health effects but not eliminated them completely," said Dr Watson. "Based on our research, we now believe that it may take more than one generation to eliminate the health problems caused by folate deficiency."

The researchers, from the Universities of Cambridge and Calgary, used mice for the study as they metabolize folic acid very similarly to humans and because folic acid deficiency or mutations in the same genes required to break down folic acid in humans result in similar developmental abnormalities and diseases in mice. This enabled the researchers to explore how the molecular mechanism of folic acid deficiency impacted development, thereby causing health problems.

For the study, the scientists used mice in which a gene called Mtrr was specifically mutated. The gene is key to the normal progression of the folic acid cycle and, when mutated, it results in abnormal folic acid metabolism causing similar effects to dietary folic acid deficiency. The researchers found that when either the maternal grandmother or the maternal grandfather had this Mtrr mutation, their genetically normal grandchildren were at risk of a wide spectrum of developmental abnormalities. These developmental abnormalities were also seen in the fourth and fifth generations of mice.

Through another experiment which involved transferring the embryo from the third generation into a normal healthy female mouse, they discovered that these developmental abnormalities were not passed down genetically. Instead, the serious defects were the result of epigenetic changes which had been inherited.

Epigenetics is a system which turns genes on and off. It occurs when chemicals, such as methyl groups, bind to the DNA at specific locations to control which genes are expressed and when they are expressed. (Interestingly, the folic acid cycle is required to make sure that the cell has enough methyl groups for normal gene expression.) Epigenetic inheritance refers to the passing of these epigenetic marks from one generation to the next -- despite the epigenome, for the most part, being 'wiped clean' after each generation.

The researchers hypothesize that, for a yet unknown reason, some of these abnormal epigenetic marks caused by the Mtrr mutation may escape this normal erasure and are inherited by the next generation. If these abnormal epigenetic marks that regulate genes important for development are inherited, then these generations may develop abnormalities as a result of the wrong genes being turned on or off.

"It surprised us to find that the great, great grandchildren of a parent who has had a folic acid deficiency could have health problems as a result -- suggesting that the 'sins of your maternal grandparents' can have an effect on your development and your risk for disease," said Dr Watson.

"More importantly, our research shows that disease in general can be inherited through epigenetic means rather than genetic means, which has huge implications for human health. Environmental factors that influence epigenetic patterns -- e.g., diet, epigenetic disruptors in the environment such as chemicals, etc. -- may also have long term, multigenerational effects."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cambridge. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nisha Padmanabhan, Dongxin Jia, Colleen Geary-Joo, Xuchu Wu, AnneC. Ferguson-Smith, Ernest Fung, MarkC. Bieda, FloydF. Snyder, RoyA. Gravel, JamesC. Cross, EricaD. Watson. Mutation in Folate Metabolism Causes Epigenetic Instability and Transgenerational Effects on Development. Cell, 2013; 155 (1): 81 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.09.002

Cite This Page:

University of Cambridge. "Folic acid deficiency can affect the health of great, great grandchildren." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130926123450.htm>.
University of Cambridge. (2013, September 26). Folic acid deficiency can affect the health of great, great grandchildren. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130926123450.htm
University of Cambridge. "Folic acid deficiency can affect the health of great, great grandchildren." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130926123450.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) The World Health Organization said on Friday that millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines would start being tested in March. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) An emergency room doctor who recently returned to the city after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the virus. He's quarantined in a hospital. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins