Association of Maternal DNA Methylation and Offspring Birthweight


This study aims to evaluate the association of maternal DNA methylation (DNAm) during pregnancy and offspring birthweight. One hundred twenty-two newborn-mother dyads from the Isle of Wight (IOW) cohort were studied to identify differentially methylated cytosine-phosphate-guanine sites (CpGs) in maternal blood associated with offspring birthweight. Peripheral blood samples were drawn from mothers at 22–38 weeks of pregnancy for epigenome-wide DNAm assessment using the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450K array. Candidate CpGs were identified using a course of 100 repetitions of a training and testing process with robust regressions. CpGs were considered informative if they showed statistical significance in at least 80% of training and testing samples. Linear mixed models adjusting for covariates were applied to further assess the selected CpGs. The Swedish Born Into Life cohort was used to replicate our findings (n = 33). Eight candidate CpGs corresponding to the genes LMF1, KIF9, KLHL18, DAB1, VAX2, CD207, SCT, SCYL2, DEPDC4, NECAP1, and SFRS3 in mothers were identified as statistically significantly associated with their children’s birthweight in the IOW cohort and confirmed by linear mixed models after adjusting for covariates. Of these, in the replication cohort, three CpGs (cg01816814, cg23153661, and cg17722033 with p values = 0.06, 0.175, and 0.166, respectively) associated with four genes (LMF1, VAX2, CD207, and NECAP1) were marginally significant. Biological pathway analyses of three of the genes revealed cellular processes such as endocytosis (possibly sustaining an adequate maternal-fetal interface) and metabolic processes such as regulation of lipoprotein lipase activity (involved in providing substrates for the developing fetus). Our results contribute to an epigenetic understanding of maternal involvement in offspring birthweight. Measuring DNAm levels of maternal CpGs may in the future serve as a diagnostic tool recognizing mothers at risk for pregnancies ending with altered birthweights.

Publication Title

Reproductive Sciences