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Perinatal protein malnutrition alters expression of miRNA biogenesis genes Xpo5 and Ago2 in mice brain.


Due to its widespread incidence, maternal malnutrition remains one of the major non-genetic factors affecting the development of newborn's brain. While all nutrients have certain influence on brain maturation, proteins appear to be the most critical for the development of neurological functions. An increasing number of studies point out that the effects of early-life nutritional inadequacy has long lasting effects on the brain and lead to permanent deficits in learning and behavior. Epigenetic mechanisms provide a potential link between the nutrition status during critical periods and changes in gene expression that may lead to disease phenotypes. Among those epigenetic mechanisms microRNAs (miRNAs) emerge as promising molecules for the link between nutrition and gene expression due to their relevance in many central nervous system functions. The objective of the current study was to evaluate the impact of perinatal protein malnutrition on the development of male and female mice offspring and to analyze the expression of the genes involved in the miRNA biogenesis pathway in different mouse brain structures. We demonstrated that early nutritional stress such as exposition to a protein-deficient diet during gestation and lactation reduced the hippocampal weight, delayed offspring's development and deregulated the expression of Xpo5 and Ago2 genes in hippocampus and hypothalamus of weanling mice. Moreover, an overall increase in mature miRNAs was consistent with the induction of Xpo5 mRNA. Altered miRNA biogenesis could modify the availability and functionality of miRNA becoming a causal factor of the adverse effects of protein malnutrition.