Maternal allergy increases susceptibility to offspring allergy in association with TH2-biased epigenetic alterations in a mouse model of peanut allergy

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014 Dec;134(6):1339-1345.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2014.08.034. Epub 2014 Oct 16.


Background: Although maternal atopy is a risk factor for the development of peanut allergy, this phenomenon has not been well characterized experimentally, and the mechanisms underlying offspring risk are unclear.

Objective: We sought to determine whether offspring of mothers with peanut allergy (O-PAM mice) are more susceptible to peanut allergy than offspring of naive mothers (O-NM mice) in a murine model and, if so, whether the susceptibility is linked to TH2-biased epigenetic alterations.

Methods: Five-week-old O-PAM and O-NM mice were intragastrically sensitized to and challenged with peanut. Serum peanut-specific IgE levels, plasma histamine levels, anaphylactic reactions, and splenocyte and MLN cell cytokine production were measured. DNA methylation levels of the Il4 gene promoter from splenocytes and MLN cells from sensitized offspring and splenocytes from unsensitized neonatal offspring were determined by means of pyrosequencing.

Results: O-PAM mice exhibited 3-fold higher peanut-specific IgE levels after peanut sensitization, as well as 5-fold higher histamine levels and significantly higher anaphylactic symptom scores after challenge than O-NM mice (P < .05-.01). Cultured splenocytes and MLNs from O-PAM mice produced significantly more TH2 cytokines than cells from O-NM mice (P < .05-.01). Cells from O-PAM mice exhibited significantly reduced DNA methylation at CpG sites of the Il4 gene promoter than cells from O-NM mice. DNA methylation levels were inversely correlated with IL-4 and IgE production. O-PAM neonatal splenocyte hypomethylation of the Il4 gene promoter was also present.

Conclusion: This study is the first to demonstrate that increased susceptibility to peanut allergy in O-PAM mice is associated with epigenetic alteration of the Il4 gene promoter. This finding might provide insight into preventing the development of early-life allergy.

Keywords: DNA methylation; IL-4; IgE; Peanut allergy; anaphylaxis mice; offspring.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anaphylaxis / etiology
  • Anaphylaxis / genetics
  • Anaphylaxis / immunology
  • Animals
  • Arachis / adverse effects
  • Arachis / immunology
  • CpG Islands
  • Cytokines / genetics*
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • DNA Methylation
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Lymph Nodes / cytology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Peanut Hypersensitivity / genetics
  • Peanut Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Immunoglobulin E