Impact of assisted reproduction, infertility, sex and paternal factors on the placental DNA methylome

Hum Mol Genet. 2019 Feb 1;28(3):372-385. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddy321.


Children conceived using Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) have a higher incidence of growth and birth defects, attributable in part to epigenetic perturbations. Both ART and germline defects associated with parental infertility could interfere with epigenetic reprogramming events in germ cells or early embryos. Mouse models indicate that the placenta is more susceptible to the induction of epigenetic abnormalities than the embryo, and thus the placental methylome may provide a sensitive indicator of 'at risk' conceptuses. Our goal was to use genome-wide profiling to examine the extent of epigenetic abnormalities in matched placentas from an ART/infertility group and control singleton pregnancies (n = 44/group) from a human prospective longitudinal birth cohort, the Design, Develop, Discover (3D) Study. Principal component analysis revealed a group of ART outliers. The ART outlier group was enriched for females and a subset of placentas showing loss of methylation of several imprinted genes including GNAS, SGCE, KCNQT1OT1 and BLCAP/NNAT. Within the ART group, placentas from pregnancies conceived with in vitro fertilization (IVF)/intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) showed distinct epigenetic profiles as compared to those conceived with less invasive procedures (ovulation induction, intrauterine insemination). Male factor infertility and paternal age further differentiated the IVF/ICSI group, suggesting an interaction of infertility and techniques in perturbing the placental epigenome. Together, the results suggest that the human placenta is sensitive to the induction of epigenetic defects by ART and/or infertility, and we stress the importance of considering both sex and paternal factors and that some but not all ART conceptuses will be susceptible.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics
  • Epigenomics
  • Female
  • Fertilization in Vitro / adverse effects
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods
  • Genomic Imprinting / genetics
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infertility, Male / metabolism
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Animal
  • Ovulation Induction / adverse effects
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Placenta / physiology*
  • Placentation / genetics*
  • Pregnancy
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproduction
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted / adverse effects*
  • Sperm Injections, Intracytoplasmic / adverse effects


  • DNA