Background: Recent evidence suggests that maternal cadmium (Cd) burden and fetal growth associations may vary by fetal sex. However, mechanisms contributing to these differences are unknown.
Objectives: Among 24 maternal-infant pairs, we investigated infant sex-specific associations between placental Cd and placental genome-wide DNA methylation.
Methods: We used ANOVA models to examine sex-stratified associations of placental Cd (dichotomized into high/low Cd using sex-specific Cd median cutoffs) with DNA methylation at each cytosine-phosphate-guanine site or region. Statistical significance was defined using a false discovery rate cutoff (<0.10).
Results: Medians of placental Cd among females and males were 5 and 2 ng/g, respectively. Among females, three sites (near ADP-ribosylation factor-like 9 (ARL9), siah E3 ubiquitin protein ligase family member 3 (SIAH3), and heparin sulfate (glucosamine) 3-O-sulfotransferase 4 (HS3ST4) and one region on chromosome 7 (including carnitine O-octanoyltransferase (CROT) and TP5S target 1 (TP53TG1)) were hypomethylated in high Cd placentas. Among males, high placental Cd was associated with methylation of three sites, two (hypomethylated) near MDS1 and EVI1 complex locus (MECOM) and one (hypermethylated) near spalt-like transcription factor 1 (SALL1), and two regions (both hypomethylated, one on chromosome 3 including MECOM and another on chromosome 8 including rho guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) 10 (ARHGEF10). Differentially methylated sites were at or close to transcription start sites of genes involved in cell damage response (SIAH3, HS3ST4, TP53TG1) in females and cell differentiation, angiogenesis and organ development (MECOM, SALL1) in males.
Conclusions: Our preliminary study supports infant sex-specific placental Cd-DNA methylation associations, possibly accounting for previously reported differences in Cd-fetal growth associations across fetal sex. Larger studies are needed to replicate and extend these findings. Such investigations may further our understanding of epigenetic mechanisms underlying maternal Cd burden with suboptimal fetal growth associations.
Keywords: Cadmium; DNA Methylation; Fetal growth; Infant-Sex; Placenta.
Published by Elsevier Inc.