Brain α-Tocopherol Concentration and Stereoisomer Profile Alter Hippocampal Gene Expression in Weanling Mice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Justin S Rhodes
  • Jonathan G Mun
  • Kristy Du
  • Pragya Thaman
  • Amanda Snyder
  • Heinrich Pinardo
  • Jenny Drnevich
  • Sriram Chandrasekaran
  • Chron-Si Lai
  • Karen J Schimpf
  • Matthew J Kuchan

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Illinois, USA.
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA
  • Department of Cardiology, University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois.
  • Center for Nutrition, Learning and Memory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA; Abbott Nutrition, Singapore.


BACKGROUND: Alpha-tocopherol (αT), the bioactive constituent of vitamin E, is essential for fertility and neurological development. Synthetic αT (8 stereoisomers; all rac-αT) is added to infant formula at higher concentrations than natural αT (RRR-αT only) to adjust for bio-potency differences, but its effects on brain development are poorly understood.

OBJECTIVES: The objective was to determine the impact of bio-potency-adjusted dietary all rac-αT versus RRR-αT, fed to dams, on the hippocampal gene expression in weanling mice.

METHODS: Male/female pairs of C57BL/6J mice were fed AIN 93-G containing RRR-αT (NAT) or all rac-αT (SYN) at 37.5 or 75 IU/kg (n = 10/group) throughout gestation and lactation. Male pups were euthanized at 21 days. Half the brain was evaluated for the αT concentration and stereoisomer distribution. The hippocampus was dissected from the other half, and RNA was extracted and sequenced. Milk αT was analyzed in separate dams.

RESULTS: A total of 797 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were identified in the hippocampi across the 4 dietary groups, at a false discovery rate of 10%. Comparing the NAT-37.5 group to the NAT-75 group or the SYN-37.5 group to the SYN-75 group, small differences in brain αT concentrations (10%; P < 0.05) led to subtle changes (<10%) in gene expression of 600 (NAT) or 487 genes (SYN), which were statistically significant. Marked differences in brain αT stereoisomer profiles (P < 0.0001) had a small effect on fewer genes (NAT-37.5 vs. SYN-37.5, 179; NAT-75 vs. SYN-75, 182). Most of the DEGs were involved in transcription regulation and synapse formation. A network analysis constructed around known vitamin E interacting proteins (VIPs) revealed a group of 32 DEGs between NAT-37.5 vs. SYN-37.5, explained by expression of the gene for the VIP, protein kinase C zeta (Pkcz).

CONCLUSIONS: In weanling mouse hippocampi, a network of genes involved in transcription regulation and synapse formation was differentially affected by dam diet αT concentration and source: all rac-αT or RRR-αT.

Bibliographic note

Copyright © The Author(s) on behalf of the American Society for Nutrition 2020.


Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Sep 2020