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1.  The effect of feeding a low iron diet prior to and during gestation on fetal and maternal iron homeostasis in two strains of rat 
Background
Iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy is a global problem, with short and long term consequences for maternal and child health. Animal models have demonstrated that the developing fetus is vulnerable to maternal iron restriction, impacting on postnatal metabolic and blood pressure regulation. Whilst long-term outcomes are similar across different models, the commonality in mechanistic events across models is unknown. This study examined the impact of iron deficiency on maternal and fetal iron homeostasis in two strains of rat.
Methods
Wistar (n=20) and Rowett Hooded Lister (RHL, n=19) rats were fed a control or low iron diet for 4 weeks prior to and during pregnancy. Tissues were collected at day 21 of gestation for analysis of iron content and mRNA/protein expression of regulatory proteins and transporters.
Results
A reduction in maternal liver iron content in response to the low iron diet was associated with upregulation of transferrin receptor expression and a reduction in hepcidin expression in the liver of both strains, which would be expected to promote increased iron absorption across the gut and increased turnover of iron in the liver. Placental expression of transferrin and DMT1+IRE were also upregulated, indicating adaptive responses to ensure availability of iron to the fetus. There were considerable differences in hepatic maternal and fetal iron content between strains. The higher quantity of iron present in livers from Wistar rats was not explained by differences in expression of intestinal iron transporters, and may instead reflect greater materno-fetal transfer in RHL rats as indicated by increased expression of placental iron transporters in this strain.
Conclusions
Our findings demonstrate substantial differences in iron homeostasis between two strains of rat during pregnancy, with variable impact of iron deficiency on the fetus. Whilst common developmental processes and pathways have been observed across different models of nutrient restriction during pregnancy, this study demonstrates differences in maternal adaptation which may impact on the trajectory of the programmed response.
doi:10.1186/1477-7827-11-32
PMCID: PMC3654972  PMID: 23635304
Pregnancy; Iron; Placenta; Liver; Maternal; Fetus; Development; Rat
2.  Processes Underlying the Nutritional Programming of Embryonic Development by Iron Deficiency in the Rat 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e48133.
Poor iron status is a global health issue, affecting two thirds of the world population to some degree. It is a particular problem among pregnant women, in both developed and developing countries. Feeding pregnant rats a diet deficient in iron is associated with both hypertension and reduced nephron endowment in adult male offspring. However, the mechanistic pathway leading from iron deficiency to fetal kidney development remains elusive. This study aimed to establish the underlying processes associated with iron deficiency by assessing gene and protein expression changes in the rat embryo, focussing on the responses occurring at the time of the nutritional insult. Analysis of microarray data showed that iron deficiency in utero resulted in the significant up-regulation of 979 genes and down-regulation of 1545 genes in male rat embryos (d13). Affected processes associated with these genes included the initiation of mitosis, BAD-mediated apoptosis, the assembly of RNA polymerase II preinitiation complexes and WNT signalling. Proteomic analyses highlighted 7 proteins demonstrating significant up-regulation with iron deficiency and the down-regulation of 11 proteins. The main functions of these key proteins included cell proliferation, protein transport and folding, cytoskeletal remodelling and the proteasome complex. In line with our recent work, which identified the perturbation of the proteasome complex as a generalised response to in utero malnutrition, we propose that iron deficiency alone leads to a more specific failure in correct protein folding and transport. Such an imbalance in this delicate quality-control system can lead to cellular dysfunction and apoptosis. Therefore these findings offer an insight into the underlying mechanisms associated with the development of the embryo during conditions of poor iron status, and its health in adult life.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048133
PMCID: PMC3482177  PMID: 23110188
3.  Exploring the relationship between maternal iron status and offspring’s blood pressure and adiposity: a Mendelian randomization study 
Clinical Epidemiology  2012;4:193-200.
Background
Iron deficiency is the most common micronutrient deficiency worldwide. Experimental animal studies suggest that mothers deficient in iron during pregnancy are more likely to have offspring who become obese with high blood pressure. C282Y mutation carriers are more likely to have higher iron stores.
Methods
We undertook an instrumental variable (IV) analysis, using maternal C282Y as an indicator for the mother’s iron status, to examine its association with offspring blood pressure (BP), waist circumference (WC), and body mass index (BMI), and compared the results to that of ordinary least squares (OLS) regression. Offspring of a sub-cohort of mothers from the UK Women’s Cohort Study (UKWCS) were recruited in 2009–2010 (n = 348, mean age = 41 years). Their blood pressure, height, and weight were measured at their local general medical practice, and they were asked to self-measure their waist circumference. About half were offspring of C282Y carriers. Maternal ferritin was used as a biomarker of maternal iron status.
Results
Maternal C282Y was strongly associated with maternal ferritin (mean difference per allele = 84 g/L, 95% confidence interval: 31–137, P = 0.002). Using IV analyses, maternal ferritin was not linked to offspring’s BP, BMI, or WC. The first stage F-statistic for the strength of the instrument was 10 (Kleibergen–Paap rk LM P = 0.009). Maternal ferritin was linked to offspring diastolic BP, WC, and BMI in univariable, but not in multivariable OLS analysis. There was no difference between the OLS and the IV models coefficients for any of the outcomes considered.
Conclusion
We found no association between maternal iron status and adult offspring’s BP and adiposity using both multivariable OLS and IV modeling. To our knowledge, this is the first study examining this relationship. Further exploration in larger studies that have genetic variation assessed in both mother and offspring should be considered.
doi:10.2147/CLEP.S33833
PMCID: PMC3422112  PMID: 22942651
iron; pregnancy; developmental origins; Mendelian randomization
5.  Cell Cycle Regulation and Cytoskeletal Remodelling Are Critical Processes in the Nutritional Programming of Embryonic Development 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23189.
Many mechanisms purport to explain how nutritional signals during early development are manifested as disease in the adult offspring. While these describe processes leading from nutritional insult to development of the actual pathology, the initial underlying cause of the programming effect remains elusive. To establish the primary drivers of programming, this study aimed to capture embryonic gene and protein changes in the whole embryo at the time of nutritional insult rather than downstream phenotypic effects. By using a cross-over design of two well established models of maternal protein and iron restriction we aimed to identify putative common “gatekeepers” which may drive nutritional programming.
Both protein and iron deficiency in utero reduced the nephron complement in adult male Wistar and Rowett Hooded Lister rats (P<0.05). This occurred in the absence of damage to the glomerular ultrastructure. Microarray, proteomic and pathway analyses identified diet-specific and strain-specific gatekeeper genes, proteins and processes which shared a common association with the regulation of the cell cycle, especially the G1/S and G2/M checkpoints, and cytoskeletal remodelling. A cell cycle-specific PCR array confirmed the down-regulation of cyclins with protein restriction and the up-regulation of apoptotic genes with iron deficiency.
The timing and experimental design of this study have been carefully controlled to isolate the common molecular mechanisms which may initiate the sequelae of events involved in nutritional programming of embryonic development. We propose that despite differences in the individual genes and proteins affected in each strain and with each diet, the general response to nutrient deficiency in utero is perturbation of the cell cycle, at the level of interaction with the cytoskeleton and the mitotic checkpoints, thereby diminishing control over the integrity of DNA which is allowed to replicate. These findings offer novel insight into the primary causes and mechanisms leading to the pathologies which have been identified by previous programming studies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023189
PMCID: PMC3157362  PMID: 21858025
6.  Dietary iron intake during early pregnancy and birth outcomes in a cohort of British women 
BACKGROUND
Iron deficiency during pregnancy is associated with adverse birth outcomes, particularly, if present during early gestation. Iron supplements are widely recommended during pregnancy, but evidence of their benefit in relation to infant outcomes is not established. This study was performed in the UK, where iron supplements are not routinely recommended during pregnancy, to investigate the association between iron intake in pregnancy and size at birth.
METHODS
From a prospective cohort of 1274 pregnant women aged 18–45 years, dietary intake was reported in a 24-h recall administered by a research midwife at 12-week gestation. Dietary supplement intake was ascertained using dietary recall and three questionnaires in the first, second and third trimesters.
RESULTS
Of the cohort of pregnant women, 80% reported dietary iron intake below the UK Reference Nutrient Intake of 14.8 mg/day. Those reported taking iron-containing supplements in the first, second and third trimesters were 24, 15 and 8%, respectively. Women with dietary iron intake >14.8 mg/day were more likely to be older, have a higher socioeconomic profile and take supplements during the first trimester. Vegetarians were less likely to have low dietary iron intake [odds ratio = 0.5, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.4, 0.8] and more likely to take supplements during the first and second trimesters. Total iron intake, but not iron intake from food only, was associated with birthweight centile (adjusted change = 2.5 centiles/10 mg increase in iron, 95% CI: 0.4, 4.6). This association was stronger in the high vitamin C intake group, but effect modification was not significant.
CONCLUSION
There was a positive relationship between total iron intake, from food and supplements, in early pregnancy and birth-weight. Iron intake, both from diet and supplements, during the first trimester of pregnancy was higher in vegetarians and women with a better socioeconomic profile.
doi:10.1093/humrep/der005
PMCID: PMC3057752  PMID: 21303776
birthweight; pregnancy; preterm birth; iron; diet
7.  Dietary iron intake during early pregnancy and birth outcomes in a cohort of British women 
BACKGROUND
Iron deficiency during pregnancy is associated with adverse birth outcomes, particularly, if present during early gestation. Iron supplements are widely recommended during pregnancy, but evidence of their benefit in relation to infant outcomes is not established. This study was performed in the UK, where iron supplements are not routinely recommended during pregnancy, to investigate the association between iron intake in pregnancy and size at birth.
METHODS
From a prospective cohort of 1274 pregnant women aged 18–45 years, dietary intake was reported in a 24-h recall administered by a research midwife at 12-week gestation. Dietary supplement intake was ascertained using dietary recall and three questionnaires in the first, second and third trimesters.
RESULTS
Of the cohort of pregnant women, 80% reported dietary iron intake below the UK Reference Nutrient Intake of 14.8 mg/day. Those reported taking iron-containing supplements in the first, second and third trimesters were 24, 15 and 8%, respectively. Women with dietary iron intake >14.8 mg/day were more likely to be older, have a higher socioeconomic profile and take supplements during the first trimester. Vegetarians were less likely to have low dietary iron intake [odds ratio = 0.5, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.4, 0.8] and more likely to take supplements during the first and second trimesters. Total iron intake, but not iron intake from food only, was associated with birthweight centile (adjusted change = 2.5 centiles/10 mg increase in iron, 95% CI: 0.4, 4.6). This association was stronger in the high vitamin C intake group, but effect modification was not significant.
CONCLUSION
There was a positive relationship between total iron intake, from food and supplements, in early pregnancy and birthweight. Iron intake, both from diet and supplements, during the first trimester of pregnancy was higher in vegetarians and women with a better socioeconomic profile.
doi:10.1093/humrep/der005
PMCID: PMC3057752  PMID: 21303776
birthweight; pregnancy; preterm birth; iron; diet
8.  The Micronutrient Genomics Project: a community-driven knowledge base for micronutrient research 
Genes & Nutrition  2010;5(4):285-296.
Micronutrients influence multiple metabolic pathways including oxidative and inflammatory processes. Optimum micronutrient supply is important for the maintenance of homeostasis in metabolism and, ultimately, for maintaining good health. With advances in systems biology and genomics technologies, it is becoming feasible to assess the activity of single and multiple micronutrients in their complete biological context. Existing research collects fragments of information, which are not stored systematically and are thus not optimally disseminated. The Micronutrient Genomics Project (MGP) was established as a community-driven project to facilitate the development of systematic capture, storage, management, analyses, and dissemination of data and knowledge generated by biological studies focused on micronutrient–genome interactions. Specifically, the MGP creates a public portal and open-source bioinformatics toolbox for all “omics” information and evaluation of micronutrient and health studies. The core of the project focuses on access to, and visualization of, genetic/genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic information related to micronutrients. For each micronutrient, an expert group is or will be established combining the various relevant areas (including genetics, nutrition, biochemistry, and epidemiology). Each expert group will (1) collect all available knowledge, (2) collaborate with bioinformatics teams towards constructing the pathways and biological networks, and (3) publish their findings on a regular basis. The project is coordinated in a transparent manner, regular meetings are organized and dissemination is arranged through tools, a toolbox web portal, a communications website and dedicated publications.
doi:10.1007/s12263-010-0192-8
PMCID: PMC2989004  PMID: 21189865
Micronutrient; Bioinformatics; Database; Genomics
9.  The Micronutrient Genomics Project: a community-driven knowledge base for micronutrient research 
Genes & Nutrition  2010;5(4):285-296.
Micronutrients influence multiple metabolic pathways including oxidative and inflammatory processes. Optimum micronutrient supply is important for the maintenance of homeostasis in metabolism and, ultimately, for maintaining good health. With advances in systems biology and genomics technologies, it is becoming feasible to assess the activity of single and multiple micronutrients in their complete biological context. Existing research collects fragments of information, which are not stored systematically and are thus not optimally disseminated. The Micronutrient Genomics Project (MGP) was established as a community-driven project to facilitate the development of systematic capture, storage, management, analyses, and dissemination of data and knowledge generated by biological studies focused on micronutrient–genome interactions. Specifically, the MGP creates a public portal and open-source bioinformatics toolbox for all “omics” information and evaluation of micronutrient and health studies. The core of the project focuses on access to, and visualization of, genetic/genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic information related to micronutrients. For each micronutrient, an expert group is or will be established combining the various relevant areas (including genetics, nutrition, biochemistry, and epidemiology). Each expert group will (1) collect all available knowledge, (2) collaborate with bioinformatics teams towards constructing the pathways and biological networks, and (3) publish their findings on a regular basis. The project is coordinated in a transparent manner, regular meetings are organized and dissemination is arranged through tools, a toolbox web portal, a communications website and dedicated publications.
doi:10.1007/s12263-010-0192-8
PMCID: PMC2989004  PMID: 21189865
Micronutrient; Bioinformatics; Database; Genomics

Results 1-9 (9)