Multi-omic brain and behavioral correlates of cell-free fetal DNA methylation in macaque maternal obesity models

Nat Commun. 2022 Sep 21;13(1):5538. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-33162-7.


Maternal obesity during pregnancy is associated with neurodevelopmental disorder (NDD) risk. We utilized integrative multi-omics to examine maternal obesity effects on offspring neurodevelopment in rhesus macaques by comparison to lean controls and two interventions. Differentially methylated regions (DMRs) from longitudinal maternal blood-derived cell-free fetal DNA (cffDNA) significantly overlapped with DMRs from infant brain. The DMRs were enriched for neurodevelopmental functions, methylation-sensitive developmental transcription factor motifs, and human NDD DMRs identified from brain and placenta. Brain and cffDNA methylation levels from a large region overlapping mir-663 correlated with maternal obesity, metabolic and immune markers, and infant behavior. A DUX4 hippocampal co-methylation network correlated with maternal obesity, infant behavior, infant hippocampal lipidomic and metabolomic profiles, and maternal blood measurements of DUX4 cffDNA methylation, cytokines, and metabolites. We conclude that in this model, maternal obesity was associated with changes in the infant brain and behavior, and these differences were detectable in pregnancy through integrative analyses of cffDNA methylation with immune and metabolic factors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids* / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Macaca mulatta / genetics
  • Obesity, Maternal*
  • Pregnancy
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids
  • Cytokines
  • Transcription Factors
  • DNA

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.c2fqz61bw