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About us Medical Sciences Research Pediatrics
University Medical Center Groningen

Torsten Plösch

The reproductive origins of Health and Disease

PI: Torsten Plösch
PI: Torsten Plösch


Our research is focused on the influence of the early fetal and neonatal environment on the health of the offspring at adult age (BARKER hypothesis, DOHaD hypothesis, Developmental Origins of Health and Disease). Specifically, we study how disturbances in maternal-fetal nutrient supply during pregnancy and early postnatal nutrition influence later metabolic regulation, namely with regards to lipid metabolism and cardiovascular diseases. The key idea is that nutrients or other biologically active molecules induce epigenetic changes in the placenta, embryo, fetus or newborn which persist into adulthood and hence change the susceptibility to develop chronic disease (metabolic programming, epigenetic programming).

Our projects therefore focus on several aspect of early development: In material from early human pregnancy we aim to identify epigenetic changes preceding developmental complications. On the other hand, we study how maternal diabetes, maternal lifestyle or pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia can lead to epigenetic modifications in the placenta or the offspring. In these conditions we also address how nutrients (e.g., lipids) are transported via the placenta and how this can be modified - this may lead to putative therapeutic strategies in future. Finally, a new research focus is the influence of of the microbiome via its metabolites on the host epigenome.

Our work forms a bridge from fetal physiology via epigenetics to long-term health outcome. For our studies, we combine “classical” biochemical analysis with up-to-date physiological techniques (indirect calorimetry, stable isotopes), molecular approaches (Taqman PCR, microarray) and epigenetic analyses (pyrosequencing/LUMA, RRBS).

Current projects focus on programming of cardiovascular disease (Simone Lip; funded by the Dutch Heart Foundation), consequences of preeclampsia and IUGR ( Violeta Stojanovska , ZonMw ), epigenetic markers in human placenta (Mariette Leeuwerke; funded by UMCG) and epigenetic regulation of cholesterol homeostasis (co-operation with the Department of Pediatrics UMCG, HJ Verkade and L Dimova; funded by STW).

Major collaborations exist with colleagues in :

  • Amsterdam (Korosi)
  • Barcelona (Jiménez-Chillarón)
  • Bonn (Schorle; Lüttjohann)
  • Cologne (Nüsken/Nüsken/Dötsch)
  • Essen (Gellhaus)



Torsten Plösch studied biology at the University of Oldenburg, Germany, and received his PhD in 2004 from the University of Groningen (“The ABC of cholesterol transport”; supervisor: Prof. F. Kuipers). He then established Epigenetic Programming as a new research focus at the University Medical Center Groningen. Currently, he is University Lecturer at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the UMCG.

Torsten is a board member of the UMCG research program ROAHD , of the International Society for Developmental Origins of Health and Disease and associate member of the European Epigenesys network . Moreover, he serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease and the International Journal Of Gynecology And Clinical Practices.

Lab-OG 2015
Lab-OG 2015

Selected publications:


Meyer KF, Krauss-Etschmann S, Kooistra W, Reinders-Luinge M, Timens W, Kobzik L, Plösch T, Hylkema MN. Prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke sex dependently influences methylation and mRNA levels of the Igf axis in lungs of mouse offspring. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2017 Apr 1;312(4):L542-L555. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00271.2016. Epub 2017 Jan 27. [Abstract]

Leeuwerke M, Eilander MS, Pruis MG, Lendvai Á, Erwich JJ, Scherjon SA, Plösch T, Eijsink JJ. DNA Methylation and Expression Patterns of Selected Genes in First-Trimester Placental Tissue from Pregnancies with Small-for-Gestational-Age Infants at Birth. Biol Reprod. 2016 Feb;94(2):37. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.115.131698. Epub 2016 Jan 6. [Abstract]

Mischke M, Plösch T. The Gut Microbiota and their Metabolites: Potential Implications for the Host Epigenome. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2016;902:33-44. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-31248-4_3. Review. [Abstract]

Steegenga WT, Mischke M, Lute C, Boekschoten MV, Lendvai A, Pruis MG, Verkade HJ, van de Heijning BJ, Boekhorst J, Timmerman HM, Plösch T, Müller M, Hooiveld GJ. Maternal exposure to a Western-style diet causes differences in intestinal microbiota composition and gene expression of suckling mouse pups. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2017 Jan;61(1). doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201600141. Epub 2016 Jul 12. [Abstract]

Pruis GM, Gellhaus A, Kühnel E, Lendvai A, Bloks VW, Groen AK, Plösch T. Sex-specific placental differences as a contributor to sex-specific metabolic programming? Acta Physiologica 2015:215:127-9. [Abstract]

Solano ME, Kowal MK, O’Rourke GE, Horst AK, Modest K, Plösch T, Barikbin R, Remus CC, Berger RG, Jago C, Lydon JP, DeMayo FJ, Parker VJ, Hecher K, Karimi K, Arck PC. Progesterone and placental heme oxygenase-1 synergistically prevent fetal growth restriction in mice via generation of a differential CD8+ T cell response. J Clin Invest 2015: 125(4):1726-38. [Abstract]

Göhner C, Weber M, Tannetta DS, Hinrichs WLJ, Plösch T, Faas MM, Scherjon SA, Schleußner E, Markert UR, Fitzgerald JS. A new enzyme-linked sorbent assay (ELSA) to quantify syncytiotrophoblast extracellular vesicles in biological fluids. Am J Reprod Immunol 2015:73(6):582-8. [Abstract]

Freitag F, Zwier MV, Barrientos G, Tirado-González I, Conrad ML, Rose M, Scherjon SA, Plösch T*, Blois SM*. Influence of relative NK-DC abundance on placentation and its relation to epigenetic programming in the offspring. Cell Death and Disease 2014:e1392. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2014.353. [Abstract]

Martínez D, Pentinat T Ribó S, Davidaud C, Bloks VW, Cebrià J, Villalmanzo N, Kalko S, Ramón-Krauel M, Díaz R, Plösch T, Tost J, Jiménez-Chillarón JC. In utero undernutrition in male mice programs liver lipid metabolism in the second-generation offspring involving altered Lxra DNA methylation. Cell Metab. 2014:941-51. [Abstract]

Pruis GM, Lendvai A, Bloks VB, Zwier MV, Baller JFW, de Bruin A, Groen AK, Plösch T. Maternal western diet primes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease susceptibility in adult offspring. Acta Physiol 2014:210: 215-27. [Abstract]

Mischke M, Plösch T. More than just a gut instinct - The potential interplay between a baby's nutrition, its gut microbiome and the epigenome. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2013:304:R1065-R1069 (editor’s choice)   Review. [Abstract]

Jiménez-Chillarón JC, Díaz R, Martínez D, Pentinat T, Ramón-Krauel M, Ribó S, Plösch T. The role of nutrition on epigenetic modifications and their implications on disease risk and health. Biochimie. 2012;94(11):2242-63. Review. [Abstract]

van Straten EM, Bloks VW, Huijkman NC, Baller JF, van Meer H, Lütjohann D, Kuipers F, Plösch T. The Liver X-Receptor (LXR) gene promoter is hyper­methylated in a mouse model of prenatal protein restriction. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2010;298:R275-R282. [Abstract]

Last modified:01 June 2021 10.26 a.m.