Paternal dietary conditions may contribute to metabolic disorders in offspring. We have analyzed the role of the stress-dependent epigenetic regulator cyclic AMP-dependent transcription factor 7 (ATF7) in paternal low-protein diet (pLPD)-induced gene expression changes in mouse liver. Atf7+/– mutations cause an offspring phenotype similar to that caused by pLPD, and the effect of pLPD almost vanished when paternal Atf7+/– mice were used. ATF7 binds to the promoter regions of ∼2,300 genes, including cholesterol biosynthesis-related and tRNA genes in testicular germ cells (TGCs). LPD induces ATF7 phosphorylation by p38 via reactive oxygen species (ROS) in TGCs. This leads to the release of ATF7 and a decrease in histone H3K9 dimethylation (H3K9me2) on its target genes. These epigenetic changes are maintained and induce expression of some tRNA fragments in spermatozoa. These results indicate that LPD-induced and ATF7-dependent epigenetic changes in TGCs play an important role in paternal diet-induced metabolic reprograming in offspring.
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