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Parental ages and levels of DNA methylation in the newborn are correlated

DOI: 10.1186/1471-2350-12-47

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Using a genome-wide survey of 27,578 CpG dinucleotides in a cohort of 168 newborns, we examined the relationship between DNA methylation in newborns and a variety of parental and newborn traits. We found that methylation levels of 144 CpGs belonging to 142 genes were significantly correlated with maternal age. A weaker correlation was observed with paternal age. Among these genes, processes related to cancer were over-represented, as were functions related to neurological regulation, glucose/carbohydrate metabolism, nucleocytoplasmic transport, and transcriptional regulation. CpGs exhibiting gender differences in methylation were overwhelmingly located on the X chromosome, although a small subset of autosomal CpGs were found in genes previously shown to exhibit gender-specific differences in methylation levels.These results indicate that there are differences in CpG methylation levels at birth that are related to parental age and that could influence disease risk in childhood and throughout life.DNA methylation is a normal, heritable epigenetic modification that down-regulates the expression of approximately 1/3 of human genes [1-3] and is key to the allele-specific imprinting of genes [4]. DNA methylation also plays an important role in disease. For example, overall DNA hypomethylation accompanied by gene-specific hypermethylation is a hallmark of cancer [5]. Additionally, shifts in DNA methylation patterns appear to be involved in the normal aging process and increase in disease susceptibility [6]. Indeed, there is ample evidence for characteristic changes in the patterns of DNA methylation with age.The earliest data supporting progressive changes in DNA methylation patterns with age came from global studies of blood that demonstrated lower levels of methylation in older individuals [7] and greater differences in methylation in older monozygotic twins [8]. Christensen et al. [9] examined 217 tissues sampled from a range of non-diseased solid tissues and blood. In


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