Moderate maternal folic acid supplementation ameliorates adverse embryonic and epigenetic outcomes associated with assisted reproduction in a mouse model.

Nathalie A Behan
Nathalie A Behan
Nutrition Research Division
Donovan Chan
Donovan Chan
McGill University and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre at the Montreal Children's Hospital
Amanda J Macfarlane
Amanda J Macfarlane
Cornell University
United States
Jacquetta M Trasler
Jacquetta M Trasler
McGill University

Hum Reprod 2019 May;34(5):851-862

Child Health and Human Development Program (CHHD), Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, 1001 Décarie Boulevard, Montréal QC, Canada.

Study Question: Could clinically-relevant moderate and/or high dose maternal folic acid supplementation prevent aberrant developmental and epigenetic outcomes associated with assisted reproductive technologies (ART)?

Summary Answer: Our results demonstrate dose-dependent and sex-specific effects of folic acid supplementation in ART and provide evidence that moderate dose supplements may be optimal for both sexes.

What Is Known Already: Children conceived using ART are at an increased risk for growth and genomic imprinting disorders, often associated with DNA methylation defects. Folic acid supplementation is recommended during pregnancy to prevent adverse offspring outcomes; however, the effects of folic acid supplementation in ART remain unclear.

Study Design, Size, Duration: Outbred female mice were fed three folic acid-supplemented diets, control (rodent daily recommended intake or DRI; CD), moderate (4-fold DRI; 4FASD) or high (10-fold DRI; 10FASD) dose, for six weeks prior to ART and throughout gestation. Mouse ART involved a combination of superovulation, in vitro fertilisation, embryo culture and embryo transfer.

Participants/materials, Setting, Methods: Midgestation embryos and placentas (n = 74-99/group) were collected; embryos were assessed for developmental delay and gross morphological abnormalities and embryos and placentas were examined for epigenetic defects. We assessed methylation at four imprinted genes (Snrpn, Kcnq1ot1, Peg1 and H19) in matched midgestation embryos and placentas (n = 31-32/group) using bisulfite pyrosequencing. In addition, we examined genome-wide DNA methylation patterns in placentas (n = 6 normal placentas per sex/group) and embryos (n = 6 normal female embryos/group; n = 3 delayed female embryos/group) using reduced representation bisulfite sequencing (RRBS).

Main Results And The Role Of Chance: Moderate, but not high dose supplementation, was associated with a decrease in the proportion of developmentally delayed embryos. Although moderate dose folic acid supplementation reduced DNA methylation variance at certain imprinted genes in embryonic and placental tissues, high dose supplementation exacerbated the negative effects of ART at imprinted loci. Furthermore, folic acid supplements resolved female-biased aberrant imprinted gene methylation. Supplementation was more effective at correcting ART-induced genome-wide methylation defects in male versus female placentas; however, folic acid supplementation also led to additional methylation perturbations which were more pronounced in males.

Large-scale Data: The RRBS data from this study have been submitted to the NCBI Gene Expression Omnibus under the accession number GSE123143.

Limitations Reasons For Caution: Although the combination of mouse ART utilised in this study consisted of techniques commonly used in human fertility clinics, there may be species differences. Therefore, human studies, designed to determine the optimal levels of folic acid supplementation for ART pregnancies, and taking into account foetal sex, are warranted.

Wider Implications Of The Findings: Taken together, our findings support moderation in the dose of folic acid supplements taken during ART.

Study Funding/competing Interest(s): This work was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (FDN-148425). The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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