Claudia Kappen, Dr. rer. nat.

Peggy M. Pennington Cole Endowed Chair in Maternal Biology & the Risk of Obesity


(225) 763-2781
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M.S. 1983 University of Cologne, Germany
Ph.D. 1988 University of Cologne, Germany
1988-1992 Postdoc, Yale University, New Haven, CT


The goal of our research is to understand the mechanisms by which maternal disease and nutrition during pregnancy affects development of the embryo. Diabetes and obesity in the mother are associated with greater risk for birth defects in the offspring, in particular heart defects and neural tube defects. This indicates that the embryo is exquisitely sensitive to perturbations in the uterine environment, as manifested in perturbed gene regulation and abnormal growth.

Distressed pregnancies also appear to 'program' exposed individuals for heath problems later in adult life. Recent evidence from our laboratory implicates aberrant cell differentiation and gene expression in the placenta as a possible mediator in altered nutrient transport. We are also conducting studies on diet composition and vitamin supplementation with the aim to identify beneficial factors that may be used in birth defects and disease prevention through optimized nutrition.

The research program has a second focus on fundamental mechanisms in patterning of the embryonic body plan, in particular in the axial skeleton.

The laboratory uses a wide variety of approaches, including imaging, histological techniques, molecular biology, bioinformatics, and mouse genetics and genomics.


S. Kamel, C. Kruger, J.M. Salbaum and C. Kappen (2009). Morpholino-mediated knockdown in primary chondrocytes implicates Hoxc8 in regulation of cell cycle progression. Bone, 44, 708-716.

J.M. Salbaum, R.H. Finnell and C. Kappen (2009). Regulation of folate receptor 1 gene expression in the visceral endoderm. Birth Defects Res. A Clin. Mol. Teratol. 85, 303-313.

C. Kappen and J.M. Salbaum (2009). Identification of gene regulatory elements in the Islet-1 gene locus. Int. J. Dev. Biol., 53, 935-46.

G. Pavlinkova, J.M. Salbaum and C. Kappen (2009) Maternal diabetes alters transcriptional programs in the developing embryo. BMC Genomics, 10, 274. 2009

C. Kappen, C. Kruger, J. MacGowan and J.M. Salbaum (2011). Maternal diet modulates the risk for neural tube defects in a mouse model of diabetic pregnancy. Reprod. Toxicol., 31, 41-49.

J.M. Salbaum, C. Kruger, X. Zhang, N. Arbour Delahaye, G. Pavlinkova, D.H. Burk and C. Kappen (2011). Altered gene expression and spongiotrophoblast differentiation in placenta from a mouse model of diabetic pregnancy Diabetologia, 54, 1909-1920.

C. Kappen, C. Kruger, J. MacGowan, and J.M. Salbaum (2012). Maternal diet modulates placenta growth and gene expression in a mouse model of diabetic pregnancy. PLoS One, 7, e38445.

J.M. Salbaum and C. Kappen (2012). Responses of the embryonic epigenome to maternal diabetes. Birth Defects Res. A Clin. Mol. Teratol., 94, 770-781.

J.M. Salbaum, C. Kruger and C. Kappen (2013). Mutation at the folate receptor 4 locus modulates gene expression profiles in the mouse uterus in response to preconceptional folate supplementation. Biochim Biophys Acta, in press. [Epub ahead of print May 4]

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