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Vicki Chen, Gia V. Shelp, Jacob L. Schwartz, Niklas D.j. Aardema, Madison L. Bunnell, and Clara E. Cho

Micronutrients consumed in excess or imbalanced amounts during pregnancy may increase the risk of metabolic diseases in offspring but the mechanisms underlying these effects are unknown. Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT), a multifunctional indoleamine in the brain and the gut, may have key roles regulating metabolism. We investigated the effects of gestational micronutrient intakes on the central and peripheral serotonergic systems as modulators of the offspring metabolic phenotypes. Pregnant Wistar rats were fed an AIN-93G diet with 1-fold recommended vitamins (RV), high 10-fold multivitamins (HV), high 10-fold folic acid with recommended choline (HFolRC) or high 10-fold folic acid with no choline (HFolNC). Male and female offspring were weaned to a high-fat RV diet for 12 weeks. We assessed the central function using the 5-HT2C receptor agonist, 1-(3-chlorophenyl)piperazine (mCPP), and found that male offspring from the HV- or HFolRC-fed dams were less responsive (P<0.05) whereas female HFolRC offspring were more responsive to mCPP (P<0.01) at 6 weeks post-weaning. Male and female offspring from the HV and HFolNC groups, and male HFolRC offspring had greater food intake (males P<0.001; females P<0.001) and weight gain (males P<0.0001; females P<0.0001), elevated colon 5-HT (males P<0.01; females P<0.001) and fasting glucose concentrations (males P<0.01; females P<0.01) as well as body composition toward obesity (males P<0.01; females P<0.01) at 12 weeks post-weaning. Colon 5-HT was correlated with fasting glucose concentrations (males R2=0.78, P<0.0001; females R2=0.71, P<0.0001). Overall, the serotonergic systems are sensitive to the composition of gestational micronutrients, with alterations consistent with metabolic disturbances in offspring.