DNA methylation in necrotizing enterocolitis

Expert Rev Mol Med. 2024 Apr 1:26:e16. doi: 10.1017/erm.2024.16.


Epigenetic modifications, such as DNA methylation, are enzymatically regulated processes that directly impact gene expression patterns. In early life, they are central to developmental programming and have also been implicated in regulating inflammatory responses. Research into the role of epigenetics in neonatal health is limited, but there is a growing body of literature related to the role of DNA methylation patterns and diseases of prematurity, such as the intestinal disease necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). NEC is a severe intestinal inflammatory disease, but the key factors that precede disease development remain to be determined. This knowledge gap has led to a failure to design effective targeted therapies and identify specific biomarkers of disease. Recent literature has identified altered DNA methylation patterns in the stool and intestinal tissue of neonates with NEC. These findings provide the foundation for a new avenue in NEC research. In this review, we will provide a general overview of DNA methylation and then specifically discuss the recent literature related to methylation patterns in neonates with NEC. We will also discuss how DNA methylation is used as a biomarker for other disease states and how, with further research, methylation patterns may serve as potential biomarkers for NEC.

Keywords: DNA methylation; epigenetics; intestinal inflammation; necrotizing enterocolitis; neonatal; prematurity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing* / genetics
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing* / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Humans


  • Biomarkers