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Study on the consequences of prenatal famine exposure on DNA methylation.

The potential of the epigenome to undergo environmentally-induced changes during early development is central to its postulated role in human disease. Here, we report a genome-scale view of DNA methylation differences after early gestational malnutrition that was caused by the Dutch Hunger Winter, a severe famine at the end of World War II. We adopted an annotation guided analysis of reduced-representation bisulfite sequencing data generated in 24 middle-aged individuals who had been exposed to famine in utero and 24 unexposed sibling controls. We observed differential DNA methylation primarily at genomic regions with regulatory potential, including enhancers active during early development. In-depth annotation of 181 prenatally-induced differentially methylated regions (P-DMRs) showed that they were predominantly located in gene bodies and co-occurred with histone marks denoting an active state. In line with the early gestational timing of the exposure, the P-DMRs mapped to genes that were enriched for differential expression patterns during blastocyst development and early organogenesis. Validation and further explorative analyses of 6 P-DMRs mapping to SMAD7, CDH23, INSR, RFTN1, CPT1A and KLF13 highlighted the critical role of gestational timing, indicated that differential methylation extended along pathways involved in growth, development and metabolism, and suggested associations with birth weight and serum LDL cholesterol in adulthood and confirmed an enhancer function for the INSR and CPT1A P-DMRs. Our results point toward a link between prenatal malnutrition and epigenetic modulation of growth and lipid metabolism that may underlie the adverse metabolic phenotype of exposed individuals in later life.

Click on a Dataset ID in the table below to learn more, and to find out who to contact about access to these data

Dataset ID Description Technology Samples
EGAD00001000733 Illumina Genome Analyzer IIx 48
Publications Citations
DNA methylation signatures link prenatal famine exposure to growth and metabolism.
Nat Commun 5: 2014 5592
Corrigendum: DNA methylation signatures link prenatal famine exposure to growth and metabolism.
Nat Commun 6: 2015 7740