Low birthweight, premature birth, intrauterine growth retardation, and maternal malnutrition have been related to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, and neuropsychiatric disorders later in life. Conversely, high birthweight has been linked to future risk of cancer. Global DNA methylation estimated by the methylation of repetitive sequences in the genome is an indicator of susceptibility to chronic diseases. We used data and biospecimens from an epigenetic birth cohort to explore the association between trajectories of fetal and maternal weight and LINE-1 methylation in 319 mother-child dyads. Newborns with low or high birthweight had significantly lower LINE-1 methylation levels in their cord blood compared to normal weight infants after adjusting for gestational age, sex of the child, maternal age at delivery, and maternal smoking during pregnancy (p = 0.007 and p = 0.036, respectively), but the magnitude of the difference was small. Infants born prematurely also had lower LINE-1 methylation levels in cord blood compared to term infants, and this difference, though small, was statistically significant (p = 0.004). We did not find important associations between maternal prepregnancy BMI or gestational weight gain and global methylation of the cord blood or fetal placental tissue. In conclusion, we found significant differences in cord blood LINE-1 methylation among newborns with low and high birthweight as well as among prematurely born infants. Future studies may elucidate whether chromosomal instabilities or other functional consequences of these changes contribute to the increased risk of chronic diseases among individuals with these characteristics. © 2011 Michels et al.
Michels, K. B., Harris, H. R., & Barault, L. (2011). Birthweight, maternal weight trajectories and global dna methylation of line-1 repetitive elements. PLoS ONE, 6(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0025254