When two obese parents are worse than one! Impacts on embryo and fetal development

N. O. McPherson, V. G. Bell, D. L. Zander-Fox, T. Fullston, L. L. Wu, R. L. Robker, M. Lane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


The prevalence of overweight and obesity in reproductive-age adults is increasing worldwide. While the effects of either paternal or maternal obesity on gamete health and subsequent fertility and pregnancy have been reported independently, the combination of having both parents overweight/ obese on fecundity and offspring health has received minimal attention. Using a 2 × 2 study design in rodents we established the relative contributions of paternal and maternal obesity on fetal and embryo development and whether combined paternal and maternal obesity had an additive effect. Here, we show that parental obesity reduces fetal and placental weights without altering pregnancy establishment and is not dependent on an in utero exposure to a high-fat diet. Interestingly combined parental obesity seemed to accumulate both the negative influences of paternal and maternal obesity had alone on embryo and fetal health rather than an amplification, manifested as reduced embryo developmental competency, reduced blastocyst cell numbers, impaired mitochondrial function, and alterations to active and repressive embryonic chromatin marks, resulting in aberrant placental gene expression and reduced fetal liver mtDNA copy numbers. Further understanding both the maternal cytoplasmic and paternal genetic interactions during this early developmental time frame will be vital for understanding how developmental programming is regulated and for the proposition of interventions to mitigate their effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E568-E581
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Blastocyst
  • Embryo
  • Fertility
  • Infertility
  • Obesity
  • Oocyte
  • Sperm

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