Background: Epigenetic changes could mediate the association of maternal pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) and gestational weight gain (GWG) with adverse offspring outcomes. However, studies in humans are lacking. Here, we examined the association of maternal pre-pregnancy BMI and GWG in different periods of pregnancy with cytosine-guanine (CpG) dinucleotide site methylation differences in newborn cord blood DNA from 88 participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) cohort using the Illumina GoldenGate Panel I. Pyrosequencing was used for validation of the top associated locus and for replication in 170 non-overlapping mother-offspring pairs from the ALSPAC cohort.
Results: After correction for multiple testing greater GWG in early pregnancy (between 0 to 18 weeks of gestation) was associated with increased DNA methylation levels in four CpG sites at MMP7, KCNK4, TRPM5 and NFKB1 genes (difference in methylation >5% per 400 g/week greater GWG) (q values 0.023 -0.065). Pre-pregnancy BMI and GWG in mid- or late pregnancy were not associated with differential DNA methylation at any CpG site. Pyrosequencing showed that greater GWG in early pregnancy was associated with increased DNA methylation levels at the top associated CpG site at MMP7, although association did not reach statistical significance (p = 0.302). Greater GWG in mid- (p = 0.167) and late-pregnancy (p = 0.037) were also associated with increased DNA methylation levels at the MMP7 CpG site. In addition, newborns of mothers who exceeded the IoM-recommended GWG had higher DNA methylation levels at the MMP7 CpG site than those of mothers with IoM-recommended GWG (p = 0.080). We failed to replicate findings.
Conclusions: Greater GWG in early pregnancy was associated with increased methylation at CpG sites at MMP7, KCNK4, TRPM5 and NFKB1 genes in offspring cord blood DNA. The specific association of GWG in early pregnancy with the top associated CpG site at MMP7 was not validated using Pyrosequencing and it did not replicate. However, given the potential functional relevancy of the four identified loci, we advocate further exploration of them in larger studies.