Maternal stress, Preterm birth, And dna methylation at imprint regulatory sequences in humans

Adriana C. Vidal, Sara E.Benjamin Neelon, Ying Liu, Abbas M. Tuli, Bernard F. Fuemmeler, Cathrine Hoyo, Amy P. Murtha, Zhiqing Huang, Joellen Schildkraut, Francine Overcash, Joanne Kurtzberg, Randy L. Jirtle, Edwin S. Iversen, Susan K. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


In infants exposed to maternal stress in utero, phenotypic plasticity through epigenetic events may mechanistically explain increasedrisk of preterm birth (PTB), which confers increased risk for neurodevelopmental disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cancers in adulthood. Weexamined associations between prenatal maternal stress and PTB, evaluating the role of DNA methylation at imprint regulatory regions. We enrolledwomen from prenatal clinics in Durham, NC. Stress was measured in 537 women at 12 weeks of gestation using the Perceived Stress Scale. DNAmethylation at differentially methylated regions (DMRs) associated with H19, IGF2, MEG3, MEST, SGCE/PEG10, PEG3, NNAT, and PLAGL1 wasmeasured from peripheral and cord blood using bisulfite pyrosequencing in a sub-sample of 79 mother-infant pairs. We examined associations betweenPTB and stress and evaluated differences in DNA methylation at each DMR by stress. Maternal stress was not associated with PTB (OR = 0.98;95% CI, 0.40-2.40; P = 0.96), after adjustment for maternal body mass index (BMI), income, and raised blood pressure. However, elevated stresswas associated with higher infant DNA methylation at the MEST DMR (2.8% difference, P < 0.01) after adjusting for PTB. Maternal stress may beassociated with epigenetic changes at MEST, a gene relevant to maternal care and obesity. Reduced prenatal stress may support the epigenomic profileof a healthy infant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-44
Number of pages8
JournalGenetics and Epigenetics
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Epigenetics
  • Imprinting
  • Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR)
  • Perceived stress
  • Perinatal
  • Pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics


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