Scientific article
Open access

Maternal obesity increases the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma through the transmission of an altered gut microbiome

Published inJHEP reports, vol. 6, no. 5, 101056
Publication date2024-05
First online date2024-03-12

Background & aims: Emerging evidence suggests that maternal obesity negatively impacts the health of offspring. Additionally, obesity is a risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Our study aims to investigate the impact of maternal obesity on the risk for HCC development in offspring and elucidate the underlying transmission mechanisms.

Methods: Female mice were fed either a high-fat diet (HFD) or a normal diet (ND). All offspring received a ND after weaning. We studied liver histology and tumor load in a N-diethylnitrosamine (DEN)-induced HCC mouse model.

Results: Maternal obesity induced a distinguishable shift in gut microbial composition. At 40 weeks, female offspring of HFD-fed mothers (HFD offspring) were more likely to develop steatosis (9.43%vs.3.09%,p =0.0023) and fibrosis (3.75%vs.2.70%,p =0.039), as well as exhibiting an increased number of inflammatory infiltrates (4.8vs.1.0,p =0.018) and higher expression of genes involved in fibrosis and inflammation, compared to offspring of ND-fed mothers (ND offspring). A higher proportion of HFD offspring developed liver tumors after DEN induction (79.8%vs.37.5%,p =0.0084) with a higher mean tumor volume (234vs.3 μm3,p =0.0041). HFD offspring had a significantly less diverse microbiota than ND offspring (Shannon index 2.56vs. 2.92,p =0.0089), which was rescued through co-housing. In the principal component analysis, the microbiota profile of co-housed animals clustered together, regardless of maternal diet. Co-housing of HFD offspring with ND offspring normalized their tumor load.

Conclusions: Maternal obesity increases female offspring's susceptibility to HCC. The transmission of an altered gut microbiome plays an important role in this predisposition.

Impact and implications: The worldwide incidence of obesity is constantly rising, with more and more children born to obese mothers. In this study, we investigate the impact of maternal diet on gut microbiome composition and its role in liver cancer development in offspring. We found that mice born to mothers with a high-fat diet inherited a less diverse gut microbiome, presented chronic liver injury and an increased risk of developing liver cancer. Co-housing offspring from normal diet- and high-fat diet-fed mothers restored the gut microbiome and, remarkably, normalized the risk of developing liver cancer. The implementation of microbial screening and restoration of microbial diversity holds promise in helping to identify and treat individuals at risk to prevent harm for future generations.

  • Maternal obesity
  • Cancer
  • Gut microbiota
  • Gut vascular barrier
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Microbiome
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
Citation (ISO format)
MOECKLI, Beat et al. Maternal obesity increases the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma through the transmission of an altered gut microbiome. In: JHEP reports, 2024, vol. 6, n° 5, p. 101056. doi: 10.1016/j.jhepr.2024.101056
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ISSN of the journal2589-5559

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