Genistein exposure during the early postnatal period favors the development of obesity in female, but not male rats

Rita S. Strakovsky, Stéphane Lezmi, Jodi A. Flaws, Susan L. Schantz, Yuan Xiang Pan, William G. Helferich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Genistein (Gen), the primary isoflavone in soy, has been shown to adversely affect various endocrine-mediated endpoints in rodents and humans. Soy formula intake by human infants has been associated with early age at menarche and decreased femaletypical behavior in girls. Adipose deposition and expansion are also hormonally regulated and Gen has been shown to alter these processes. However, little is known about the impact of early-life soy intake on metabolic homeostasis in adulthood. The current study examined the impact of early-life Gen exposure on adulthood body composition (by magnetic resonance imaging) and the molecular signals mediating adipose expansion. From postnatal day (PND) 1 to 22, rat pups were daily orally dosed with 50 mg/kg Gen to mimic blood Gen levels in human infants fed soy formula. Female but not male Gen-exposed rats had increased fat/lean mass ratio, fat mass, adipocyte size and number, and decreased muscle fiber perimeter. PND22 Gen-exposed females, but not males, had increased expression of adipogenic factors, including CCAAT/ enhancer binding protein alpha (Cebpα), CCAAT/enhancer binding protein beta (Cebpβ), and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (Pparγ). Furthermore, Wingless-related MMTV integration site 10b (Wnt10b), a critical regulator of adipogenic cell fate determination, was hypermethylated and had decreased expression in adipose of PND22 Gen-exposed females. These data suggest that developmental Gen exposure in rats has genderspecific effects on adiposity that closely parallel the effects of a postweaning high-fat diet and underscore the importance of considering timing of exposure and gender when establishing safety recommendations for early-life dietary Gen intake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberkft331
Pages (from-to)161-174
Number of pages14
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Adipogenesis
  • Body composition
  • Genistein
  • Methylation
  • Obesity
  • Soy infant formula

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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