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PLOS ONE  2012 

Effects of Altered Maternal Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 and Docosahexaenoic Acid on Placental Global DNA Methylation Patterns in Wistar Rats

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017706

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Abstract:

Potential adverse effects of excess maternal folic acid supplementation on a vegetarian population deficient in vitamin B12 are poorly understood. We have previously shown in a rat model that maternal folic acid supplementation at marginal protein levels reduces brain omega-3 fatty acid levels in the adult offspring. We have also reported that reduced docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) levels may result in diversion of methyl groups towards DNA in the one carbon metabolic pathway ultimately resulting in DNA methylation. This study was designed to examine the effect of normal and excess folic acid in the absence and presence of vitamin B12 deficiency on global methylation patterns in the placenta. Further, the effect of maternal omega 3 fatty acid supplementation on the above vitamin B12 deficient diets was also examined. Our results suggest maternal folic acid supplementation in the absence of vitamin B12 lowers plasma and placental DHA levels (p<0.05) and reduces global DNA methylation levels (p<0.05). When this group was supplemented with omega 3 fatty acids there was an increase in placental DHA levels and subsequently DNA methylation levels revert back to the levels of the control group. Our results suggest for the first time that DHA plays an important role in one carbon metabolism thereby influencing global DNA methylation in the placenta.

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