Handbook of Famine, Starvation, and Nutrient Deprivation
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There are a variety of environmental insults that can occur during pregnancy which cause low birth weight and poor fetal health outcomes. One such insult is maternal malnutrition, which can be further narrowed down to a low protein diet during gestation. Studies show that perinatal protein deficiencies can impair proper organ growth and development, leading to long-term metabolic dysfunction. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that underlie how this deficiency leads to adverse developmental outcomes is essential for establishing better therapeuticstrategies that may alleviate or prevent diseases in later life. This chapter reviews how perinatal protein restriction in humans and animals leads to metabolic disease, and it identifies the mechanisms that have been elucidated, to date. These include alterations in transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms, as well as indirect means such as endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and oxidative stress. Furthermore, nutritional and pharmaceutical interventions are highlighted to illustrate that the plasticity of the underdeveloped organs during perinatal life can be exploited to prevent onset of long-term metabolic disease.