In utero Bisphenol A Exposure Is Linked with Sex Specific Changes in the Transcriptome and Methylome of Human Amniocytes

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2020 Feb 1;105(2):453-467. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgz037.


Context: Prenatal exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) is linked to obesity and diabetes but the molecular mechanisms driving these phenomena are not known. Alterations in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) methylation in amniocytes exposed to BPA in utero represent a potential mechanism leading to metabolic dysfunction later in life.

Objective: To profile changes in genome-wide DNA methylation and expression in second trimester human amniocytes exposed to BPA in utero.

Design: A nested case-control study was performed in amniocytes matched for offspring sex, maternal race/ethnicity, maternal age, gestational age at amniocentesis, and gestational age at birth. Cases had amniotic fluid BPA measuring 0.251 to 23.74 ng/mL. Sex-specific genome-wide DNA methylation analysis and RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) were performed to determine differentially methylated regions (DMRs) and gene expression changes associated with BPA exposure. Ingenuity pathway analysis was performed to identify biologically relevant pathways enriched after BPA exposure. In silico Hi-C analysis identified potential chromatin interactions with DMRs.

Results: There were 101 genes with altered expression in male amniocytes exposed to BPA (q < 0.05) in utero, with enrichment of pathways critical to hepatic dysfunction, collagen signaling and adipogenesis. Thirty-six DMRs were identified in male BPA-exposed amniocytes and 14 in female amniocyte analysis (q < 0.05). Hi-C analysis identified interactions between DMRs and 24 genes with expression changes in male amniocytes and 12 in female amniocytes (P < 0.05).

Conclusion: In a unique repository of human amniocytes exposed to BPA in utero, sex-specific analyses identified gene expression changes in pathways associated with metabolic disease and novel DMRs with potential distal regulatory functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amnion / cytology*
  • Amnion / drug effects
  • Amnion / embryology
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / adverse effects*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • DNA Methylation / drug effects
  • Epigenome / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Obesity / chemically induced
  • Phenols / adverse effects*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Sex Factors*
  • Transcriptome / drug effects*


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Phenols
  • bisphenol A