A link between thrifty phenotype and maternal care across two generations of intercrossed mice

B. Sauce, C.P. Goes, I. Forti, B.G.O. Do Monte, I.M. Watanabe, J. Cunha, A.C. Peripato

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


© 2017 Sauce et al.This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.Maternal effects are causal influences from mother to offspring beyond genetic information, and have lifelong consequences for multiple traits. Previously, we reported that mice whose mothers did not nurse properly had low birth weight followed by rapid fat accumulation and disturbed development of some organs. That pattern resembles metabolic syndromes known collectively as the thrifty phenotype, which is believed to be an adaptation to a stressful environment which prepares offspring for reduced nutrient supply. The potential link between maternal care, stress reactivity, and the thrifty phenotype, however, has been poorly explored in the human and animal literature: only a couple of studies even mention (much less, test) these concepts under a cohesive framework. Here, we explored this link using mice of the parental inbred strains SM/J and LG/J-who differ dramatically in their maternal care-and the intercrossed generations F1 and F2. We measured individual differences in 15 phenotypes and used structural equation modeling to test our hypotheses. We found a remarkable relationship between thrifty phenotype and lower quality of maternal behaviors, including nest building, pup retrieval, grooming/licking, and nursing. To our knowledge, this is the first study to show, in any mammal, a clear connection between the natural variation in thrifty phenotype and maternal care. Both traits in the mother also had a substantial effect on survival rate in the F3 offspring. To our surprise, however, stress reactivity seemed to play no role in our models. Furthermore, the strain of maternal grandmother, but not of paternal grandmother, affected the variation of maternal care in F2 mice, and this effect was mediated by thrifty phenotype in F2. Since F1 animals were all genetically identical, this finding suggests that maternal effects pass down both maternal care and thrifty phenotype in these mice across generations via epigenetic transmission.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0177954
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'A link between thrifty phenotype and maternal care across two generations of intercrossed mice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this