Monday, 11 June 2012

Exposure of mothers to pesticides could lead to obesity in children

Environmental agents be it dietary factors, chemicals- drugs, pesticides etc. affect the genetic make-up of individuals. Conversely, changes in the genetic make-up influence variation in individual response to similar environmental agent exposure making some individuals at increased risk for developing certain diseases. Interactions between genes and environmental agents are responsible for most diseases ( It is also known that exposure of expectant mothers to environmental factors affects the development of diseases in the children. A previous post explored this aspect.

A recent paper (Andersen et al , 2012)  ties all these facts and shows that prenatal exposure to pesticides could affect risk of cardiovascular disease development later in life. Results from a Danish study, which is a part of an on-going prospective study of the effects of pesticide exposure in early pregnancy on the growth and development in the children, offers important insight. From 1996 to 2000 pregnant women working in greenhouses, were recruited consecutively in this study and were categorized as high, medium, or not exposed to pesticides. The children underwent a physical examination at age 6 to11 years that measured blood pressure, body weight, BMI etc. The presence of a gene PON1 and the different types of this gene in the children was also studied.This gene codes for the enzyme HDL-associated  paraoxonase 1 (PON1) has anti-oxidative functions that may protect against atherosclerosis. Additionally it hydrolyses many substrates including organophosphate pesticides. Changes in PON1 ( a common polymorphism- PON1 Q192R) affects both properties. Children with PON1 192R-allele of women exposed to pesticides had higher body fat content, BMI-scores, blood pressure and increased abdominal girth than unexposed children. For children with the PON1 192QQ genotype, exposure of pesticide exposure prenatally had no effect.

This study highlights the complications in gene-environment interactions and  how maternal pesticide exposure can put children with a certain genetic make up  at risk for developing cardiovascular diseases.

Image: Timothy Whallett 
References: Andersen HR, Wohlfahrt-Veje C, Dalgård C, Christiansen L, Main KM, Nellemann C, Murata K, Jensen TK, Skakkebæk NE, & Grandjean P (2012). Paraoxonase 1 polymorphism and prenatal pesticide exposure associated with adverse cardiovascular risk profiles at school age. PloS one, 7 (5) PMID: 22615820

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