A paternal methyl donor depleted diet leads to increased anxiety- and depression-like behavior in adult rat offspring

Academic Article


  • Epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation elicit lasting changes in gene expression and likely mediate gene–environment interactions that shape brain development, behavior, and emotional health. Myriad environmental factors influence DNA methylation, including methyl donor content in the paternal diet, could influence methylation in offspring via changes in the paternal germ line. The present study examines the effects of paternal methyl donor dietary deficiency on offspring’s emotional behaviors, including anxiety, social interaction, and depression-like behavior. We previously found that rats bred to display high levels of anxiety- and depression-like behavior exhibit diminished DNA methylation in the amygdala. We also observed that depleting dietary methyl donor content exacerbated the rats’ already high levels of anxiety- and depression-like behavior. Here we sought to determine whether paternal dietary methyl donor depletion elicits intergenerational effects on first generation (F1) offspring’s behavior (potentially triggering a similar increase in anxiety- and/or depression-like behavior). Thus, adult male rats prone to high anxiety/depression-like behavior, were fed either a methyl donor depleted (DEP) or control (CON) diet for 5 weeks prior to mating. They were paired with females and resultant F1 male offspring were subjected to a behavioral test battery in adulthood. F1-DEP offspring showed a similar behavioral profile to the F0 males, including greater depression-like behavior in the forced swim test (FST) and increased anxiety-like behavior in the open field test (OFT). Future work will interrogate molecular changes in the brains of F1 offspring that mediate these intergenerational effects of paternal methyl donor dietary content on offspring emotional behavior.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • McCoy CR; Jackson NL; Brewer RL; Moughnyeh MM; Smith DL; Clinton SM
  • Volume

  • 38
  • Issue

  • 4