Methylation variation at IGF2 differentially methylated regions and maternal folic acid use before and during pregnancy

Epigenetics. 2011 Jul;6(7):928-36. doi: 10.4161/epi.6.7.16263. Epub 2011 Jul 1.


Folic acid (FA) supplementation before and during pregnancy has been associated with decreased risk of neural tube defects although recent reports suggest it may also increase the risk of other chronic diseases. We evaluated exposure to maternal FA supplementation before and during pregnancy in relation to aberrant DNA methylation at two differentially methylated regions (DMRs) regulating Insulin-like Growth Factor 2 (IGF2) expression in infants. Aberrant methylation at these regions has been associated with IGF2 deregulation and increased susceptibility to several chronic diseases. Using a self-administered questionnaire, we assessed FA intake before and during pregnancy in 438 pregnant women. Pyrosequencing was used to measure methylation at two IGF2 DMRs in umbilical cord blood leukocytes. Mixed models were used to determine relationships between maternal FA supplementation before or during pregnancy and DNA methylation levels at birth. Average methylation at the H19 DMR was 61.2%. Compared to infants born to women reporting no FA intake before or during pregnancy, methylation levels at the H19 DMR decreased with increasing FA intake (2.8%, p=0.03, and 4.9%, p=0.04, for intake before and during pregnancy, respectively). This methylation decrease was most pronounced in male infants (p=0.01). Methylation alterations at the H19 DMR are likely an important mechanism by which FA risks and/or benefits are conferred in utero. Because stable methylation marks at DMRs regulating imprinted genes are acquired before gastrulation, they may serve as archives of early exposures with the potential to improve our understanding of developmental origins of adult disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II / genetics*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy


  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II
  • Folic Acid