In a new study, researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden, along with colleagues from the University of São Paulo, Brazil, investigated the impact of the arid living environment of sowing leaves on the next generation. The pigs studied were bred in Brazil and raised according to that country’s breeding standards. The sow’s uncomfortable, unstimulating environment brought with it several different types of changes in the epigenome of her offspring.
In many parts of the world, pigs are locked in concrete stalls while they are pregnant. This is a bad environment for pigs, both in terms of comfort and stimulation. Because the environment causes stress in the animal, many pigs develop repetitive or stereotypical behavior.
Repetitive behaviors are common in domestic animals that lack sufficiently beneficial living conditions (eg horses, chickens, dogs), but they also occur in humans. In humans, for example, repetitive behavior might involve nail biting, hair pulling, or excessive picking or tearing of skin.
In the new study, the researchers investigated how a pregnant hare’s environment affects the brain of her offspring. They also investigated whether stressful pig stereotypical behavior affects the pigs’ brain.
The study was conducted in Brazil and involved 30 sows, all of whom were housed in concrete booths (according to that country’s traditional breeding standards). After 90 days of gestation, half of the sows were transferred to an enriched environment with their hay changed daily. The rest of the pigs were to stay in the same concrete booth where they lived right on the floor. Some, but not all, of these sows developed stereotypical behaviour. Next, genetic analyzes were performed on 18 piglets.
Genetic alteration is a change in the genome that does not alter the genetic code. On the other hand, epigenetic modifications relate to which genes are turned on and off and when they are turned on. The epigenome is influenced by the external environment, such as food, lifestyle, and environmental factors.
The researchers were able to see epigenetic changes in the brains of pigs whose mothers were forced to stay in the most arid environment during their entire pregnancy. Alterations have been found in parts of the brain that relate to emotion, learning, memory and stress response, such as the amygdala, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. The results showed that while the epigenome of the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex is primarily affected by the mother’s environment, the supraorbital amygdala was closely associated with the stereotypical behavior of the pig.
The molecular pathways and mechanisms related to epigenetic changes induced by the maternal environment or stereotyped behavior in the pig brain were also different:
i) Maternal environment is related to effects on neural crest development in porcine frontal cortex. The neural crest is an important signaling center for brain development.
b) Both maternal environment and maternal stereotyped behavior are related to effects on ethanol metabolism and lipid-mediated signaling in the piglet hippocampus.
C) Maternal environment is related to effects on microtubules poly/depolymerization in the amygdala. Poly/depolymerization microtubules influence processes essential in neuroplasticity, such as memory formation and learning, particularly in dendritic spines.
This article shows how different conditions during pregnancy in pigs, in this case poor environment or stereotyped behavior, can have variable effects on different brain regions during the development of the offspring. Interestingly, these effects seem to be mediated by epigenetic programming,” Carlos Guerrero-Bosagna, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Organic Biology, Uppsala University.
The study is the first to investigate the neural epigenetic effects of maternal inheritance in the offspring of pigs and the first to investigate the neural epigenetic effects of typical maternal behavior in any mammal.
“In terms of animal welfare, this is a call for attention to migrate to better systems around the world. We show that even small improvement can have remarkable effects,” notes Guerrero-Bosagna.
The study has been published in the journal Epigenetics.
Patricia Tatmoto et al., Fertile mother environment and sow stereotypes differentially affect the neural epigenome of brain regions related to emotion in their piglets, Epigenetics (2023). DOI: 10.1080 / 15592294.2023.2196656
the quote: Barren Habitat of Cows Leaves Imprint on Piglets Brains (2023, May 26) Retrieved May 26, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-barren-habitat-imprint-piglets-brains.html
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