Insulin Therapy for Gestational Diabetes Mellitus Does Not Fully Protect Offspring From Diet-Induced Metabolic Disorders

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is associated with an increased risk of metabolic disorders in offspring in later life. Although mounting evidence suggests that therapy for GDM could improve neonatal health, whether the therapy confers long-term metabolic benefits to offspring in their later adult lives is not known. Here, using a mouse model of diabetes in the latter half of pregnancy to mimic human GDM, we find that the efficient insulin therapy for GDM confers significant protection against glucose intolerance and obesity in offspring fed a normal chow diet. However, the therapy fails to protect offspring when challenged with a high-fat diet, especially for male offspring. Genome-wide DNA methylation profiling of pancreatic islets from male offspring identified hypermethylated regions in several genes that regulate insulin secretion, including Abcc8, Cav1.2, and Cav2.3 that encode KATP or Ca2+ channels, which are associated with reduced gene expression and impaired insulin secretion. This finding suggests a methylation-mediated epigenetic mechanism for GDM-induced intergenerational glucose intolerance. It highlights that even efficient insulin therapy for GDM is insufficient to fully protect adult offspring from diet-induced metabolic disorders.