Methylation of serotonin regulating genes in cord blood cells: association with maternal metabolic parameters and correlation with methylation in peripheral blood cells during childhood and adolescence

Ivona Bečeheli, Marina Horvatiček, Maja Perić, Barbara Nikolić, Cyrielle Holuka, Marija Klasić, Marina Ivanišević, Mirta Starčević, Gernot Desoye, Dubravka Hranilović, Jonathan D. Turner, Jasminka Štefulj*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) signaling is involved in neurodevelopment, mood regulation, energy metabolism, and other physiological processes. DNA methylation plays a significant role in modulating the expression of genes responsible for maintaining 5-HT balance, such as 5-HT transporter (SLC6A4), monoamine oxidase A (MAOA), and 5-HT receptor type 2A (HTR2A). Maternal metabolic health can influence long-term outcomes in offspring, with DNA methylation mediating these effects. We investigated associations between maternal metabolic parameters—pre-pregnancy body mass index (pBMI), gestational weight gain (GWG), and glucose tolerance status (GTS), i.e., gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) versus normal glucose tolerance (NGT)—and cord blood methylation of SLC6A4, MAOA, and HTR2A in participants from our PlaNS birth cohort. CpG sites (15, 9, and 2 in each gene, respectively) were selected based on literature and in silico data. Methylation levels were quantified by bisulfite pyrosequencing. We also examined the stability of methylation patterns in these genes in circulating blood cells from birth to adolescence using longitudinal DNA methylation data from the ARIES database. Results: None of the 203 PlaNS mothers included in this study had preexisting diabetes, 99 were diagnosed with GDM, and 104 had NGT; all neonates were born at full term by planned Cesarean section. Methylation at most CpG sites differed between male and female newborns. SLC6A4 methylation correlated inversely with maternal pBMI and GWG, while methylation at HTR2A site -1665 correlated positively with GWG. None of the maternal metabolic parameters statistically associated with MAOA methylation. DNA methylation data in cord blood and peripheral blood at ages 7 and 15 years were available for 808 participants from the ARIES database; 4 CpG sites (2 in SLC6A4 and 2 in HTR2A) overlapped between the PlaNS and ARIES cohorts. A positive correlation between methylation levels in cord blood and peripheral blood at 7 and 15 years of age was observed for both SLC6A4 and HTR2A CpG sites. Conclusions: Methylation of 5-HT regulating genes in cord blood cells is influenced by neonatal sex, with maternal metabolism playing an additional role. Inter-individual variations present in circulating blood cells at birth are still pronounced in childhood and adolescence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Number of pages18
JournalClinical Epigenetics
Volume16
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2024

Keywords

  • 5-HT
  • ALSPAC
  • DoHAD
  • Early-life adversity
  • Epigenetic
  • Maternal obesity
  • Sex differences

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