Residential Proximity to Major Roadways at Birth, DNA Methylation at Birth and Midchildhood, and Childhood Cognitive Test Scores: Project Viva(Massachusetts, USA)

Environ Health Perspect. 2018 Sep;126(9):97006. doi: 10.1289/EHP2034.


Background: Epigenetic variability is hypothesized as a regulatory pathway through which prenatal exposures may influence child development and health.

Objective: We sought to examine the associations of residential proximity to roadways at birth and epigenome-wide DNA methylation. We also assessed associations of differential methylation with child cognitive outcomes.

Methods: We estimated residential proximity to roadways at birth using a geographic information system (GIS) and cord blood methylation using Illumina's HumanMethylation450-array in 482 mother-child pairs in Project Viva. We identified individual CpGs associated with residential-proximity-to-roadways at birth using robust linear regression [[Formula: see text]]. We also estimated association between proximity-to-roadways at birth and methylation of the same sites in blood samples collected at age 7-11 y ([Formula: see text]). We ran the same analyses in the Generation R Study for replication ([Formula: see text]). In Project Viva, we investigated associations of differential methylation at birth with midchildhood cognition using linear regression.

Results: Living closer to major roadways at birth was associated with higher cord blood (and-more weakly-midchildhood blood) methylation of four sites in LAMB2. For each halving of residential-proximity-to-major-roadways, we observed a 0.82% increase in DNA methylation at cg05654765 [95% confidence interval (CI): (0.54%, 1.10%)], 0.88% at cg14099457 [95% CI: (0.56%, 1.19%)], 0.19% at cg03732535 [95% CI: (0.11%, 0.28)], and 1.08% at cg02954987 [95% CI: (0.65%, 1.51%)]. Higher cord blood methylation of these sites was associated with lower midchildhood nonverbal cognitive scores. Our results did not replicate in the Generation R Study.

Conclusions: Our discovery results must be interpreted with caution, given that they were not replicated in a separate cohort. However, living close to major roadways at birth was associated with cord blood methylation of sites in LAMB2-a gene known to be linked to axonal development-in our U.S. cohort. Higher methylation of these sites associated with lower nonverbal cognitive scores at age 7-11 y in the same children.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Boston
  • Child
  • Cognition*
  • Cohort Studies
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / etiology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / metabolism
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / physiopathology
  • Residence Characteristics* / statistics & numerical data