Maternal gestational diabetes is associated with genome-wide DNA methylation variation in placenta and cord blood of exposed offspring

Hum Mol Genet. 2015 Jun 1;24(11):3021-9. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddv013. Epub 2015 Jan 29.


Exposure of a developing foetus to maternal gestational diabetes (GDM) has been shown to programme future risk of diabetes and obesity. Epigenetic variation in foetal tissue may have a mechanistic role in metabolic disease programming through interaction of the pregnancy environment with gene function. We aimed to identify genome-wide DNA methylation variation in cord blood and placenta from offspring born to mothers with and without GDM. Pregnant women of South Asian origin were studied and foetal tissues sampled at term delivery. The Illumina HumanMethylation450 BeadChip was used to assay genome-wide DNA methylation in placenta and cord blood from 27 GDM exposed and 21 unexposed offspring. We identified 1485 cord blood and 1708 placenta methylation variable positions (MVPs) achieving genome-wide significance (adjusted P-value <0.05) with methylation differences of >5%. MVPs were disproportionately located within first exons. A bioinformatic co-methylation algorithm was used to detect consistent directionality of methylation in 1000 bp window around each MVP was observed at 74% of placenta and 59% of cord blood MVPs. KEGG pathway analysis showed enrichment of pathways involved in endocytosis, MAPK signalling and extracellular triggers to intracellular metabolic processes. Replication studies should integrate genomics and transcriptomics with longitudinal sampling to elucidate stability, determine causality for translation into biomarker and prevention studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • CpG Islands
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Diabetes, Gestational / genetics*
  • Diabetes, Gestational / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Young Adult