MATERNAL TASTE FUNCTION AND THE PROGRAMMING OF UNHEALTHY TASTE RESPONSES IN OFFSPRING
Despite the importance of the maternal diet to supply adequate nutrition to the developing fetus, little is known about how the maternal taste system changes during pregnancy; and further if maternal over-nutrition has any long-term impact on the taste system of the offspring in adulthood. Given that more than half of women at childbearing age are considered to be overweight or obese, it is vital to understand how taste can change during pregnancy, and further, to study offspring taste development in the context of maternal obesity. The following experiments were designed to investigate the taste system at the level of behavior, morphology, and gene expression in pregnant mice. In brief-access taste testing with partially food and water restricted mice, licking responses to sucrose decreased during pregnancy and returned to baseline postpartum. Taste bud morphology was unchanged across pregnancy, however taste receptor expression levels were altered across multiple time points during gestation and postpartum. The results indicate that the physiological changes induced by pregnancy can influence taste gene expression, and that interventions focused on the taste bud represent a useful strategy to enhance offspring fitness through maternal intake. The long-term effects of gestational obesity were studied by providing maternal mice with ad libitum high-fat diet throughout pregnancy, weaning their offspring onto normal chow, and studying the taste behavior of the offspring as adults. The adult offspring of mice fed a high fat diet showed enhanced licking responses to sucrose in brief-access testing. Despite only having contact with the high-fat diet in utero and through lactation, this behavior was associated with an increase in sweet receptor expression, and an increase in intake for sweet solutions and the high-fat diet. It is possible that this altered taste system may arise from early fetal programming. In summation, these findings highlight the importance of studying maternal diet and the long-term impacts of maternal obesity on the offspring taste system. Greater understanding of how the maternal diet contributes to the development of the offspring is critical for finding solutions to overcome diseases related to over-nutrition, and to promote healthy eating habits for children who struggle with obesity and diabetes.
high fat diet; maternal; Pregnancy; Obesity; offspring; taste; Pharmacology; Neurosciences; physiology
Kurpios, Natasza; Roberson, Mark Stephen; Linster, Christiane
PHD of Pharmacology
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis