Maternal anxiety and depression in pregnancy and DNA methylation of the NR3C1 glucocorticoid receptor gene

Epigenomics. 2021 Nov;13(21):1701-1709. doi: 10.2217/epi-2020-0022. Epub 2020 Nov 20.


Aim: To quantify associations of anxiety and depression during pregnancy with differential cord blood DNA methylation of the glucorticoid receptor (NR3C1). Materials & methods: Pregnancy anxiety, trait anxiety and depressive symptoms were collected using the Pregnancy Related Anxiety Scale, State-Trait Anxiety Index and Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, respectively. NR3C1 methylation was determined at four methylation sites. Results: DNA methylation of CpG1 in the NR3C1 CpG island shore was higher in infants born to women with high pregnancy anxiety (β 2.54, 95% CI: 0.49-4.58) and trait anxiety (β 1.68, 95% CI: 0.14-3.22). No significant association was found between depressive symptoms and NR3C1 methylation. Conclusion: We found that maternal anxiety was associated with increased NR3C1 CpG island shore methylation.

Keywords: DNA methylation; NR3C1; cord blood; developmental epigenetics; epigenetics; glucocorticoid receptor; maternal anxiety; maternal depression; pregnancy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety* / genetics
  • CpG Islands
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Depression* / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Pregnancy
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid* / genetics


  • NR3C1 protein, human
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid