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Antioxidant may protect offspring of obese mothers from fatty liver disease

New research in The FASEB Journal suggests that pyrroloquinoline quinone, when given to obese mouse mothers during pregnancy and lactation, protects offspring against fatty liver symptoms and damage

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

In new research published online in The FASEB Journal, scientists show that the antioxidant pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) may prevent the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in offspring. The research, which used mice, is the first to demonstrate that PQQ has this type of protective effect. PQQ is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in soil and foods, such as soy, parsley, celery, kiwi, and papaya, and is also present in high quantities in human breast milk.

"Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common liver disease worldwide, and affects approximately 35 percent of obese children in North America alone. Despite its growing prevalence, no effective treatment exists to date," said Karen R. Jonscher, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work at the Department of Anesthesiology, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, in Aurora, Colorado. "Our results suggest that supplementation with PQQ, particularly during pregnancy and lactation, might help slow the advancing epidemic of NAFLD in the next generation."

To make their discovery, Jonscher and colleagues fed mouse mothers a normal diet or one with high amounts of fat, sugar, and cholesterol as is typical of human Western-style diets. The researchers then provided a subset of mice from each diet group with supplemental PQQ in their drinking water. Their offspring were kept on the same diets and PQQ into early adulthood, except for one group that had PQQ supplementation discontinued at weaning (3 weeks of age). Offspring fed the high-fat, -sugar, and -cholesterol diet gained more weight than mice fed a normal diet, and PQQ did not change the amount of weight gain. Those with PQQ supplementation, however, did have less fat in their livers, even before they were born, and PQQ prevented the accumulation of damaging fats in the liver, despite continued consumption of the experimental diet. This was associated with reduced inflammation and was found in the mothers that had only been exposed to PQQ during pregnancy and lactation.

"While this intriguing study leaves open the question of whether the effects are intrauterine or transgenerational-epigenetic in character (or both), the potential relevance to human pre- and postnatal obesity is clear," said Thoru Pederson, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "This work sets specific issues in play for follow-up studies."


Submit to The FASEB Journal by visiting, and receive monthly highlights by signing up at The FASEB Journal is published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). It is the world's most cited biology journal according to the Institute for Scientific Information and has been recognized by the Special Libraries Association as one of the top 100 most influential biomedical journals of the past century.

FASEB is composed of 30 societies with more than 125,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. Our mission is to advance health and welfare by promoting progress and education in biological and biomedical sciences through service to our member societies and collaborative advocacy.

Details: Karen R. Jonscher, Michael S. Stewart, Alba Alfonso-Garcia, Brian C. DeFelice, Xiaoxin X. Wang, Yuhuan Luo, Moshe Levi, Margaret J. R. Heerwagen, Rachel C. Janssen, Becky A. de la Houssaye, Ellen Wiitala, Garrett Florey, Raleigh L. Jonscher, Eric O. Potma, Oliver Fiehn, and Jacob E. Friedman. Early PQQ supplementation has persistent long-term protective effects on developmental programming of hepatic lipotoxicity and inflammation in obese mice. FASEB J. fj.201600906R;

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