TitleRegions of Variable DNA Methylation in Human Placenta Associated with Newborn Neurobehavior.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsPaquette, AG, E Houseman, A, Green, BB, Lesseur, C, Armstrong, DA, Lester, B, Marsit, CJ
Date Published2016 Jul 1

The placenta regulates the in utero environment and functionally impacts fetal development. Candidate gene studies identified variation in placental DNA methylation is associated with newborn neurologic and behavioral outcomes including movement quality, lethargic behavior, attention, and arousal. We sought to identify novel regions of variable DNA methylation associated with newborn attention, lethargy, quality of movement, and arousal by performing an epigenome-wide association study in 335 infants from a US birth cohort. Methylation status was quantified using the Illumina HumanMethylation450 BeadChip array and associations to newborn outcomes assessed by the NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scales (NNNS) were identified while incorporating established bioinformatics algorithms to control for confounding by cell type composition. Methylation of CpGs within FHIT (cg15970800) and ANKRD11 (cg16710656) demonstrated genome-wide significance (P<1.8×10(-7)) in specific associations with infant attention. CpGs whose differential methylation was associated with all four neurobehavioral outcomes were common to 50 genes involved in biological processes relating to cellular adhesion and nervous system development. Comprehensive methylation profiling identified relationships between methylation of FHIT and ANKRD11, which have been previously linked to neurodevelopment and behavioral outcomes in genetic association studies. Subtle changes in DNA methylation of these genes within the placenta may impact normal variation of a newborn's ability to alter and track visual and sound stimuli. Gene ontology analysis suggested that those genes with variable methylation related to these outcomes are over-represented in biological pathways involved in brain development and placental physiology, supportive of our hypothesis for a key role of the placenta in neurobehavioral outcomes.