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JOURNAL

Genetics & Epigenetics

Maternal Stress, Preterm Birth, and DNA Methylation at Imprint Regulatory Sequences in Humans

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Genetics & Epigenetics 2014:6 37-44

Original Research

Published on 14 Sep 2014

DOI: 10.4137/GEG.S18067


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Abstract

In infants exposed to maternal stress in utero, phenotypic plasticity through epigenetic events may mechanistically explain increased risk of preterm birth (PTB), which confers increased risk for neurodevelopmental disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cancers in adulthood. We examined associations between prenatal maternal stress and PTB, evaluating the role of DNA methylation at imprint regulatory regions. We enrolled women from prenatal clinics in Durham, NC. Stress was measured in 537 women at 12 weeks of gestation using the Perceived Stress Scale. DNA methylation at differentially methylated regions (DMRs) associated with H19, IGF2, MEG3, MEST, SGCE/PEG10, PEG3, NNAT, and PLAGL1 was measured from peripheral and cord blood using bisulfite pyrosequencing in a sub-sample of 79 mother–infant pairs. We examined associations between PTB and stress and evaluated differences in DNA methylation at each DMR by stress. Maternal stress was not associated with PTB (OR = 0.98; 95% CI, 0.40–2.40; P = 0.96), after adjustment for maternal body mass index (BMI), income, and raised blood pressure. However, elevated stress was associated with higher infant DNA methylation at the MEST DMR (2.8% difference, P < 0.01) after adjusting for PTB. Maternal stress may be associated with epigenetic changes at MEST, a gene relevant to maternal care and obesity. Reduced prenatal stress may support the epigenomic profile of a healthy infant.



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