Maternal choline supplementation in a rat model of periconceptional alcohol exposure: Impacts on the fetus and placenta

Steane SE, Fielding AM, Kent NL, Andersen I, Browne DJ, Tejo EN, Gårdebjer EM, Kalisch-Smith JI, Sullivan MA, Moritz KM, Akison LK. Maternal choline supplementation in a rat model of periconceptional alcohol exposure: Impacts on the fetus and placenta. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2021 Aug 2. doi: 10.1111/acer.14685.


Background: Maternal choline supplementation in rats can ameliorate specific neurological and behavioral abnormalities caused by alcohol exposure during pregnancy. We aimed to test whether choline supplementation could ameliorate fetal growth restriction and molecular changes in the placenta associated with periconceptional ethanol exposure in the rat.

Methods: Sprague-Dawley dams were given either 12.5% ethanol (PCE) or 0% ethanol (Con) in a liquid diet from 4 days prior to 4 days after conception. At day 5 of pregnancy, dams were either placed on a standard chow (1.6 g choline/kg chow) or an intermediate chow (2.6 g choline/kg chow). On day 10 of pregnancy, a subset of the intermediate dams were placed on a chow further supplemented with choline (7.2 g choline/kg chow), resulting in 6 groups. Fetuses and placentas were collected on day 20 of pregnancy for analysis.

Results: Choline supplementation resulted in increased fetal weight at late gestation, ameliorating the deficits due to PCE. This was most pronounced in litters on a standard chow during pregnancy. Choline also increased fetal liver weight and decreased fetal brain:liver ratio, independent of alcohol exposure. Placental weight was reduced as choline levels in the chow increased, particularly in female placentas. This resulted in a greater ratio of fetal:placental weight, suggesting increased placental efficiency. Global DNA methylation in the placenta was altered in a sex-specific manner by both PCE and choline. However, the increased glycogen deposition in female placentas, previously reported in this PCE model, was not prevented by choline supplementation.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that choline has the potential to ameliorate fetal growth restriction associated with PCE and improve placental efficiency following prenatal alcohol exposure. Our study highlights the importance of maternal nutrition in moderating the severity of adverse fetal and placental outcomes that may arise from prenatal alcohol exposure around the time of conception.

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