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      Epigenetic Gene Promoter Methylation at Birth Is Associated With Child’s Later Adiposity

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          Abstract

          OBJECTIVE

          Fixed genomic variation explains only a small proportion of the risk of adiposity. In animal models, maternal diet alters offspring body composition, accompanied by epigenetic changes in metabolic control genes. Little is known about whether such processes operate in humans.

          RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS

          Using Sequenom MassARRAY we measured the methylation status of 68 CpGs 5′ from five candidate genes in umbilical cord tissue DNA from healthy neonates. Methylation varied greatly at particular CpGs: for 31 CpGs with median methylation ≥5% and a 5–95% range ≥10%, we related methylation status to maternal pregnancy diet and to child’s adiposity at age 9 years. Replication was sought in a second independent cohort.

          RESULTS

          In cohort 1, retinoid X receptor-α (RXRA) chr9:136355885+ and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) chr7:150315553+ methylation had independent associations with sex-adjusted childhood fat mass (exponentiated regression coefficient [β] 17% per SD change in methylation [95% CI 4–31], P = 0.009, n = 64, and β = 20% [9–32], P < 0.001, n = 66, respectively) and %fat mass (β = 10% [1–19], P = 0.023, n = 64 and β =12% [4–20], P = 0.002, n = 66, respectively). Regression analyses including sex and neonatal epigenetic marks explained >25% of the variance in childhood adiposity. Higher methylation of RXRA chr9:136355885+, but not of eNOS chr7:150315553+, was associated with lower maternal carbohydrate intake in early pregnancy, previously linked with higher neonatal adiposity in this population. In cohort 2, cord eNOS chr7:150315553+ methylation showed no association with adiposity, but RXRA chr9:136355885+ methylation showed similar associations with fat mass and %fat mass (β = 6% [2–10] and β = 4% [1–7], respectively, both P = 0.002, n = 239).

          CONCLUSIONS

          Our findings suggest a substantial component of metabolic disease risk has a prenatal developmental basis. Perinatal epigenetic analysis may have utility in identifying individual vulnerability to later obesity and metabolic disease.

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          Most cited references 45

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          Finding the missing heritability of complex diseases.

          Genome-wide association studies have identified hundreds of genetic variants associated with complex human diseases and traits, and have provided valuable insights into their genetic architecture. Most variants identified so far confer relatively small increments in risk, and explain only a small proportion of familial clustering, leading many to question how the remaining, 'missing' heritability can be explained. Here we examine potential sources of missing heritability and propose research strategies, including and extending beyond current genome-wide association approaches, to illuminate the genetics of complex diseases and enhance its potential to enable effective disease prevention or treatment.
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            Effect of in utero and early-life conditions on adult health and disease.

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              Persistent epigenetic differences associated with prenatal exposure to famine in humans.

              Extensive epidemiologic studies have suggested that adult disease risk is associated with adverse environmental conditions early in development. Although the mechanisms behind these relationships are unclear, an involvement of epigenetic dysregulation has been hypothesized. Here we show that individuals who were prenatally exposed to famine during the Dutch Hunger Winter in 1944-45 had, 6 decades later, less DNA methylation of the imprinted IGF2 gene compared with their unexposed, same-sex siblings. The association was specific for periconceptional exposure, reinforcing that very early mammalian development is a crucial period for establishing and maintaining epigenetic marks. These data are the first to contribute empirical support for the hypothesis that early-life environmental conditions can cause epigenetic changes in humans that persist throughout life.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Diabetes
                diabetes
                diabetes
                Diabetes
                Diabetes
                American Diabetes Association
                0012-1797
                1939-327X
                May 2011
                23 April 2011
                : 60
                : 5
                : 1528-1534
                Affiliations
                1Institute of Developmental Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, U.K.
                2MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, U.K.
                3NIHR Nutrition, Diet and Lifestyle Biomedical Research Unit, University of Southampton, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, Southampton, U.K.
                4Liggins Institute, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
                5AgResearch, New Zealand
                6Singapore Institute of Clinical Sciences, Singapore, Singapore
                Author notes
                Corresponding author: Keith M. Godfrey, kmg@ 123456mrc.soton.ac.uk .
                Article
                0979
                10.2337/db10-0979
                3115550
                21471513
                © 2011 by the American Diabetes Association.

                Readers may use this article as long as the work is properly cited, the use is educational and not for profit, and the work is not altered. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ for details.

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                Categories
                Obesity Studies

                Endocrinology & Diabetes

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