Changes in DNA methylation from age 18 to pregnancy in type 1, 2, and 17 T helper and regulatory T-cells pathway genes


To succeed, pregnancies need to initiate immune biases towards T helper 2 (Th2) responses, yet little is known about what establishes this bias. Using the Illumina 450 K platform, we explored changes in DNA methylation (DNAm) of Th1, Th2, Th17, and regulatory T cell pathway genes before and during pregnancy. Female participants were recruited at birth (1989), and followed through age 18 years and their pregnancy (2011–2015). Peripheral blood DNAm was measured in 245 girls at 18 years; from among these girls, the DNAm of 54 women was repeatedly measured in the first (weeks 8–21, n = 39) and second (weeks 22–38, n = 35) halves of pregnancy, respectively. M-values (logit-transformed β-values of DNAm) were analyzed: First, with repeated measurement models, cytosine–phosphate–guanine sites (CpGs) of pathway genes in pregnancy and at age 18 (nonpregnant) were compared for changes (p ≤ 0.05). Second, we tested how many of the 348 pathway-related CpGs changed compared to 10 randomly selected subsets of all other CpGs and compared to 10 randomly selected subsets of other CD4+-related CpGs (348 in each subset). Contrasted to the nonpregnant state, 27.7% of Th1-related CpGs changed in the first and 36.1% in the second half of pregnancy. Among the Th2 pathway CpGs, proportions of changes were 35.1% (first) and 33.8% (second half). The methylation changes suggest involvement of both Th1 and Th2 pathway CpGs in the immune bias during pregnancy. Changes in regulatory T cell and Th17 pathways need further exploration.

Publication Title

International Journal of Molecular Sciences