DNA methylation changes in African American women with a history of preterm birth from the InterGEN study

Barcelona, Veronica; Montalvo-Ortiz, Janitza L.; Wright, Michelle L.; Nagamatsu, Sheila T.; Dreisbach, Caitlin; Crusto, Cindy A.; Sun, Yan V.; Taylor, Jacquelyn Y.

Preterm birth (< 37 weeks’ gestation) is a common outcome of pregnancy that has been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease for women later in life. Little is known about the physiologic mechanisms underlying this risk. To date, no studies have evaluated if differences in DNA methylation (DNAm) among women who experience preterm birth are short-term or if they persist and are associated with subsequent cardiovascular sequelae or other health disorders. The purpose of this study was to examine long-term epigenetic effects of preterm birth in African American mothers (n = 182) from the InterGEN Study (2014–2019). In this study, we determine if differences in DNAm exist between women who reported a preterm birth in the last 3–5 years compared to those who had full-term births by using two different approaches: epigenome-wide association study (EWAS) and genome-wide co-methylation analyses.

Though no significant CpG sites were identified using the EWAS approach, we did identify significant modules of co-methylation associated with preterm birth. Co-methylation analyses showed correlations with preterm birth in gene ontology and KEGG pathways. Functional annotation analysis revealed enrichment for pathways related to central nervous system and sensory perception. No association was observed between DNAm age and preterm birth, though larger samples are needed to confirm this further.

We identified differentially methylated gene networks associated with preterm birth in African American women 3–5 years after birth, including pathways related to neurogenesis and sensory processing. More research is needed to understand better these associations and replicate them in an independent cohort. Further study should be done in this area to elucidate mechanisms linking preterm birth and later epigenomic changes that may contribute to the development of health disorders and maternal mood and well-being.


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BMC Genomic Data

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Published Here
September 22, 2023


African American, Preterm birth, EWAS, DNA methylation