Epigenome-wide DNA methylation in placentas from preterm infants: association with maternal socioeconomic status

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Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center; Department of Psychiatry

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Biochemical Phenomena, Metabolism, and Nutrition | Genomics | Health Economics | Maternal and Child Health | Psychiatry


This study evaluated the hypothesis that prenatal maternal socioeconomic status (SES) adversity is associated with DNA methylation in the placenta. SES adversity was defined by the presence of, as well as a summative count of, four factors: less than college education, single marital status, food and nutritional service assistance, and public health insurance. Epigenome-wide DNA methylation was assessed using the Illumina EPIC array in 426 placentas from a sample of infants born < 28 weeks of gestation from the Extremely Low Gestational Age Newborn cohort. Associations between SES adversity and DNA methylation were assessed with robust linear regressions adjusted for covariates and controlled the false discovery rate at < 10%. We also examined whether such associations were sex specific. Indicators of SES adversity were associated with differential methylation at 33 CpG sites. Of the 33 identified CpG sites, 19 (57.6%) displayed increased methylation, and 14 (42.4%) displayed decreased methylation in association with at least one of the SES adversity factors. Sex differences were observed in DNA methylation associated with summative SES score; in which placentas derived from female pregnancies showed more robust differential CpG methylation than placentas from male pregnancies. Maternal SES adversity was associated with differential methylation of genes with key role in gene transcription and placental function, potentially altering immunity and stress response. Further investigation is needed to evaluate the role of epigenetic differences in mediating the association between maternal socioeconomic status during pregnancy and later life health outcomes in children.


DNA methylation, Placenta, epigenetics, preterm children, socioeconomic adversity

DOI of Published Version



Santos HP Jr, Bhattacharya A, Martin EM, Addo K, Psioda M, Smeester L, Joseph RM, Hooper SR, Frazier JA, Kuban KC, O'Shea TM, Fry RC. Epigenome-wide DNA methylation in placentas from preterm infants: association with maternal socioeconomic status. Epigenetics. 2019 Aug;14(8):751-765. doi: 10.1080/15592294.2019.1614743. Epub 2019 May 21. PMID: 31062658; PMCID: PMC6615526. Link to article on publisher's site

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