Hepatic 1-carbon metabolism enzyme activity, intermediate metabolites, and growth in neonatal Holstein dairy calves are altered by maternal supply of methionine during late pregnancy

A. S. Alharthi, D. N. Coleman, Y. Liang, F. Batistel, A. A. Elolimy, R. C. Yambao, E. Abdel-Hamied, Y. X. Pan, C. Parys, I. A. Alhidary, M. M. Abdelrahman, J. J. Loor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Maternal supply of methyl donors such as methionine (Met) during late pregnancy can affect offspring growth and development. The objective was to investigate the effect of postruminal Met supply during late pregnancy on 1-carbon, Met cycle, and transsulfuration pathways in the calf liver. During the last 28 d of pregnancy, cows were individually fed a control diet or the control diet plus rumen-protected DL-Met (MET; 0.09% dry matter intake). Liver samples obtained from calves (n = 14/group) at 4, 14, 28, and 50 d of age were used for metabolomics, real-time PCR, and enzyme activity analyses. Genes associated with 1-carbon metabolism, DNA methylation, and the cytidine 5′-diphosphocholine–choline pathway were analyzed via real-time PCR. Activity of betaine homocysteine methyltransferase, cystathionine β-synthase, and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate homocysteine methyltransferase (MTR) was analyzed using 14C isotopes. Data were analyzed using a mixed model that included the fixed effects of maternal treatment, day, and their interaction, and the random effect was calf within maternal diet. Calves born to dams offered MET tended to have greater birth body weight and had overall greater body weight during the first 9 wk of life. However, no differences were detected for daily feed intake and average daily gain between groups. Concentrations of betaine and choline, reflecting Met cycle activity, at d 14 through 28 were greater in MET calves. Transsulfuration pathway intermediates also were altered in MET calves, with concentrations of cysteine sulfinic acid and hypotaurine (d 4 and 14) and taurine being greater (d 4, 14, 28, and 50). Despite the lack of differences in daily feed intake, the greater concentrations of the tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates fumarate and glutamate along with NAD/NADH in MET calves indicated enhanced rates of energy metabolism. Although activity of betaine homocysteine methyltransferase was greater in MET calves at d 14, cystathionine β-synthase was lower and increased at d 14 and 28, where it was greater compared with the control diet. Activity of MTR was lower at d 4 and 50 in MET calves. Among gene targets measured, MET calves had greater overall expression of MTR, phosphatidylethanolamine N-methyltransferase, and choline kinase α and β. An interaction of maternal diet by time was detected for mRNA abundance of DNA methyltransferase 3α (involved in de novo methylation) due to greater values at d 4 and 14 in MET calves. Overall, the data indicate that enhanced postruminal supply of Met to cows during late pregnancy may program hepatic metabolism of the calf in the context of maintaining Met homeostasis, phosphatidylcholine and taurine synthesis, DNA methylation, and energy metabolism. These alterations potentially result in better efficiency of nutrient use, hence conferring the calf a physiologic advantage during a period of rapid growth and development. The precise biologic mechanisms remain to be established.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10291-10303
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • epigenetics
  • metabolism
  • methyl donor
  • nutritional programming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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