Altered maternal haemoglobin levels during pregnancy are associated with pre-clinical and clinical conditions affecting the fetus. Evidence from animal models suggests that these associations may be partially explained by differential DNA methylation in the newborn with possible long-term consequences. To test this in humans, we meta-analyzed the epigenome-wide associations of maternal haemoglobin levels during pregnancy with offspring DNA methylation in 3,967 newborn cord blood and 1,534 children and 1,962 adolescent whole-blood samples derived from 10 cohorts. DNA methylation was measured using Illumina Infinium Methylation 450K or MethylationEPIC arrays covering 450,000 and 850,000 methylation sites, respectively. There was no statistical support for the association of maternal haemoglobin levels with offspring DNA methylation either at individual methylation sites or clustered in regions. For most participants, maternal haemoglobin levels were within the normal range in the current study, whereas adverse perinatal outcomes often arise at the extremes. Thus, this study does not rule out the possibility that associations with offspring DNA methylation might be seen in studies with more extreme maternal haemoglobin levels.
Keywords: DNA methylation; Maternal haemoglobin; developmental programming; pregnancy.