Prenatal Alcohol Exposure: Profiling Developmental DNA Methylation Patterns in Central and Peripheral Tissues.
ABSTRACT: Background: Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) can alter the development of neurobiological systems, leading to lasting neuroendocrine, neuroimmune, and neurobehavioral deficits. Although the etiology of this reprogramming remains unknown, emerging evidence suggests DNA methylation as a potential mediator and biomarker for the effects of PAE due to its responsiveness to environmental cues and relative stability over time. Here, we utilized a rat model of PAE to examine the DNA methylation profiles of rat hypothalami and leukocytes at four time points during early development to assess the genome-wide impact of PAE on the epigenome and identify potential biomarkers of PAE. Our model of PAE resulted in blood alcohol levels of ~80-150 mg/dl throughout the equivalent of the first two trimesters of human pregnancy. Hypothalami were analyzed on postnatal days (P) 1, 8, 15, 22 and leukocytes at P22 to compare central and peripheral markers. Genome-wide DNA methylation analysis was performed by methylated DNA immunoprecipitation followed by next-generation sequencing. Results: PAE resulted in lasting changes to DNA methylation profiles across all four ages, with 118 differentially methylated regions (DMRs) displaying persistent alterations across the developmental period at a false-discovery rate (FDR) < 0.05. In addition, 299 DMRs showed the same direction of change in the hypothalamus and leukocytes of P22 pups at an FDR < 0.05, with some genes overlapping with the developmental profile findings. The majority of these DMRs were located in intergenic regions, which contained several computationally-predicted transcription factor binding sites. Differentially methylated genes were generally involved in immune function, epigenetic remodeling, metabolism, and hormonal signaling, as determined by gene ontology analyses. Conclusions: Persistent DNA methylation changes in the hypothalamus may be associated with the long-term physiological and neurobehavioral alterations in observed in PAE. Furthermore, correlations between epigenetic alterations in peripheral tissues and those in the brain will provide a foundation for the development of biomarkers of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Finally, findings from studies of PAE provide important insight into the etiology of neurodevelopmental and mental health disorders, as they share numerous phenotypes and comorbidities.
Project description:Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) alters the development of neurobiological systems, leading to lasting neuroendocrine, neuroimmune, and neurobehavioral deficits. Although the etiology of this reprogramming remains unknown, emerging evidence suggests DNA methylation as a potential mediator and biomarker for the effects of PAE due to its responsiveness to environmental cues and relative stability over time. Here, we utilized a rat model of PAE to examine the DNA methylation profiles of rat hypothalami and leukocytes at four time points during early development to assess the genome-wide impact of PAE on the epigenome and identify potential biomarkers of PAE. Our model of PAE approximates to 1-2x the legal limit of drunk driving in most jurisdictions (blood alcohol 80-150 mg/dl) throughout the equivalent of the first two trimesters of human pregnancy. Hypothalami were analyzed on postnatal (P) days 1, 8, 15, 22 and leukocytes at P22 to compare central and peripheral markers. Genome-wide DNA methylation analysis was performed by methylated DNA immunoprecipitation followed by next-generation sequencing. PAE resulted in lasting changes to DNA methylation profiles across all four ages, with 118 differentially methylated regions (DMRs) displaying persistent alterations across the developmental profile at a false-discovery rate (FDR) <0.05. By contrast, 299 DMRs showed the same direction of change in the hypothalamus and leukocytes of P22 pups at an FDR<0.05, with some genes overlapping with the developmental profile findings. The majority of these DMRs were located in intergenic regions, which contained several computationally-predicted transcription factor binding sites. Differentially methylated genes were generally involved in immune function, epigenetic remodeling, metabolism, and hormonal signaling, as determined by gene ontology analyses. Persistent DNA methylation changes in the hypothalamus may be associated with the long-term deficits observed in PAE. Furthermore, correlations between epigenetic alterations in peripheral tissues and those in the brain will provide a foundation for the development of biomarkers of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Finally, findings from studies of PAE provide important insight into the etiology neurodevelopmental and mental health disorders, as they tend to share numerous symptoms and comorbidities. Overall design: DNA methylation data from meDIP-seq of 60 rat samples, spanning three prenatal treatment groups (control, pair-fed, prenatal alcohol exposed), four ages (postnatal days 1, 8, 15, 22), and two tissues (hypothalamus [all ages], white blood cells [P22 only]). WBC and hypothalamic samples were obtained from the same animal on P22. Each group/tissue/age had n= 4. Two sequencing runs were performed for each sample (120 aligned bam files) and DNA methylation peaks were called using MACS2 following DNA processed (peak files).
Project description:Alcohol-use disorders encompass a range of drinking levels and behaviors, including low, binge, and heavy drinking. In this regard, investigating the neural state of individuals who chronically self-administer lower doses of alcohol may provide insight into mechanisms that prevent the escalation of alcohol use. DNA methylation is one of the epigenetic mechanisms that stabilizes adaptations in gene expression and has been associated with alcohol use. Thus, we investigated DNA methylation, gene expression, and the predicted neural effects in the nucleus accumbens core (NAcc) of male rhesus macaques categorized as "low" or "binge" drinkers, compared to "alcohol-naïve" and "heavy" drinkers based on drinking patterns during a 12-month alcohol self-administration protocol. Using genome-wide CpG-rich region enrichment and bisulfite sequencing, the methylation levels of 2.6 million CpGs were compared between alcohol-naïve (AN), low/binge (L/BD), and heavy/very heavy (H/VHD) drinking subjects (n = 24). Through regional clustering analysis, we identified nine significant differential methylation regions (DMRs) that specifically distinguished ANs and L/BDs, and then compared those DMRs among H/VHDs. The DMRs mapped to genes encoding ion channels, receptors, cell adhesion molecules, and cAMP, NF-?? and Wnt signaling pathway proteins. Two of the DMRs, linked to PDE10A and PKD2L2, were also differentially methylated in H/VHDs, suggesting an alcohol-dose independent effect. However, two other DMRs, linked to the CCBE1 and FZD5 genes, had L/BD methylation levels that significantly differed from both ANs and H/VHDs. The remaining five DMRs also differentiated L/BDs and ANs. However, H/VHDs methylation levels were not distinguishable from either of the two groups. Functional validation of two DMRs, linked to FZD5 and PDE10A, support their role in regulating gene expression and exon usage, respectively. In summary, the findings demonstrate that L/BD is associated with unique DNA methylation signatures in the primate NAcc, and that the methylation signatures identify synaptic genes that may play a role in preventing the escalation of alcohol use.
Project description:BACKGROUND:We have recently shown that binge or heavy levels of alcohol drinking increase deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) methylation and reduce gene expression of proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and period 2 (PER2) in adult human subjects (Gangisetty et al., Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 43, 2019, 212). One hypothesis would be that methylation of these 2 genes is consistently associated with alcohol exposure and could be used as biomarkers to predict risk of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). Results of the present study provided some support for this hypothesis. METHODS:We conducted a series of studies to determine DNA methylation changes in stress regulatory genes proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and period 2 (PER2) using biological samples from 3 separate cohorts of patients: (i) pregnant women who consumed moderate-to-high levels of alcohol or low/unexposed controls, (ii) children with PAE and non-alcohol-exposed controls, and (iii) children with PAE treated with or without choline. RESULTS:We found pregnant women who consumed moderate-to-high levels of alcohol and gave birth to PAE children had higher DNA methylation of POMC and PER2. PAE children also had increased methylation of POMC and PER2. The differences in the gene methylation of PER2 and POMC between PAE and controls did not differ by maternal smoking status. PAE children had increased levels of stress hormone cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone. Choline supplementation reduced DNA hypermethylation and increased expression of POMC and PER2 in children with PAE. CONCLUSIONS:These data suggest that PAE significantly elevates DNA methylation of POMC and PER2 and increases levels of stress hormones. Furthermore, these results suggest the possibility that measuring DNA methylation levels of PER2 and POMC in biological samples from pregnant women or from children may be useful for identification of a woman or a child with PAE.
Project description:The objectives of this study were to identify tissue-specific differentially methylated regions (T-DMR's) in the folate transport genes in placental tissue compared with leukocytes, and from placental tissues obtained from normal infants or with neural tube defects (NTDs). Using pyrosequencing, we developed methylation assays for the CpG islands (CGIs) and the CGI shore regions of the folate receptor α (FOLR1), proton-coupled folate transporter (PCFT) and reduced folate carrier 1 (RFC1) genes. The T-DMRs differed in location for each gene and the difference in methylation ranged between 2 and 54%. A higher T-DMR methylated fraction was associated with a lower mRNA level of the FOLR1 and RFC1 genes. Methylation fractions differed according to RFC1 80G > A genotype in the NTD cases and in leukocytes from subjects with high total plasma homocysteine (tHcy). There were no differences in methylated fraction of folate transporter genes between NTD cases and controls. We suggest that T-DMRs participate in the regulation of expression of the FOLR1 and RFC1 genes, that the RFC1 80G > A polymorphism exerts a gene-nutrition interaction on DNA methylation in the RFC1 gene, and that this interaction appears to be most prominent in NTD-affected births and in subjects with high tHcy concentrations.
Project description:Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) can harm the embryonic development and cause life-long consequences in offspring's health. To clarify the molecular mechanisms of PAE we have used a mouse model of early alcohol exposure, which is based on maternal ad libitum ingestion of 10% (v/v) ethanol for the first eight days of gestation (GD 0.5-8.5). Owing to the detected postnatal growth-restricted phenotype in the offspring of this mouse model and both prenatal and postnatal growth restriction in alcohol-exposed humans, we focused on imprinted genes Insulin-like growth factor 2 (Igf2), H19, Small Nuclear Ribonucleoprotein Polypeptide N (Snrpn) and Paternally expressed gene 3 (Peg3), which all are known to be involved in embryonic and placental growth and development. We studied the effects of alcohol on DNA methylation level at the Igf2/H19 imprinting control region (ICR), Igf2 differentially methylated region 1, Snrpn ICR and Peg3 ICR in 9.5 embryonic days old (E9.5) embryos and placentas by using MassARRAY EpiTYPER. To determine alcohol-induced alterations globally, we also examined methylation in long interspersed nuclear elements (Line-1) in E9.5 placentas. We did not observe any significant alcohol-induced changes in DNA methylation levels. We explored effects of PAE on gene expression of E9.5 embryos as well as E9.5 and E16.5 placentas by using quantitative PCR. The expression of growth promoter gene Igf2 was decreased in the alcohol-exposed E9.5 and E16.5 placentas. The expression of negative growth controller H19 was significantly increased in the alcohol-exposed E9.5 embryos compared to controls, and conversely, a trend of decreased expression in alcohol-exposed E9.5 and E16.5 placentas were observed. Furthermore, increased Snrpn expression in alcohol-exposed E9.5 embryos was also detected. Our study indicates that albeit no alterations in the DNA methylation levels of studied sequences were detected by EpiTYPER, early PAE can affect the expression of imprinted genes in both developing embryo and placenta.
Project description:Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is a significant public health problem and can result in a continuum of adverse outcomes to the fetus known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Subjects with FASD show significant neurological deficits, ranging from microencephaly, neurobehavioral, and mental health problems to poor social adjustment and stress tolerance. Neurons are particularly sensitive to alcohol exposure. The neurotoxic action of alcohol, i.e., through ROS production, induces DNA damage and neuronal cell death by apoptosis. In addition, epigenetics, including DNA methylation, histone posttranslational modifications (PTMs), and non-coding RNA, play an important role in the neuropathology of FASD. However, little is known about the temporal dynamics and kinetics of histones and their PTMs in FASD.We examined the effects of postnatal alcohol exposure (PAE), an animal model of human third-trimester equivalent, on the kinetics of various histone proteins in two distinct brain regions, the frontal cortex, and the hypothalamus, using in vivo 2H2O-labeling combined with mass spectrometry-based proteomics. We show that histones have long half-lives that are in the order of days. We also show that H3.3 and H2Az histone variants have faster turnovers than canonical histones and that acetylated histones, in general, have a faster turnover than unmodified and methylated histones. Our work is the first to show that PAE induces a differential reduction in turnover rates of histones in both brain regions studied. These alterations in histone turnover were associated with increased DNA damage and decreased cell proliferation in postnatal rat brain.Alterations in histone turnover might interfere with histone deposition and chromatin stability, resulting in deregulated cell-specific gene expression and therefore contribute to the development of the neurological disorders associated with FASD. Using in vivo 2H2O-labeling and mass spectrometry-based proteomics might help in the understanding of histone turnover following alcohol exposure and could be of great importance in enabling researchers to identify novel targets and/or biomarkers for the prevention and management of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
Project description:Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) is known to elicit a broad range of systemic effects, including neurophysiological alterations that result in adverse behavioral and cognitive outcomes. However, molecular pathways underlying these long-term intrauterine effects remain to be investigated. Here, we tested a hypothesis that PAE may lead to epigenetic alterations to the DNA resulting in attentional and cognitive alterations of the children. We report the results of the study that included 156 primary school children of the Franconian Cognition and Emotion Studies (FRANCES) cohort which were tested for an objective marker of PAE, ethyl glucuronide (EtG) in meconium at birth. Thirty-two newborns were found to be exposed to alcohol with EtG values above 30 ng/g (EtG+). Previously we described PAE being associated with lower IQ and smaller amplitude of the event-related potential component P3 in go trials (Go-P3), which indicates a reduced capacity of attentional resources. Whole-genome methylation analysis of the buccal cell DNA revealed 193 differentially methylated genes in children with positive meconium EtG, that were clustered into groups involved in epigenetic modifications, neurodegeneration, neurodevelopment, axon guidance and neuronal excitability. Furthermore, we detected mediation effects of the methylation changes in DPP10 and SLC16A9 genes on the EtG related cognitive and attention-related deficits. Our results suggest that system-wide epigenetic changes are involved in long-term effects of PAE. In particular, we show an epigenetic mediation of PAE effects on cognition and attention-related processes.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Despite decades of public education about dire consequences of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE), drinking alcohol during pregnancy remains prevalent. As high as 40% of live-born infants exposed to alcohol during gestation and diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome have congenital heart defects that can be life-threatening. In animal models, the methyl donor betaine, found in foods such as wheat bran, quinoa, beets, and spinach, ameliorated neurobehavioral deficits associated with PAE, but effects on heart development are unknown. METHODS:Previously, we modeled a binge drinking episode during the first trimester in avian embryos. Here, we investigated whether betaine could prevent adverse effects of alcohol on heart development. Embryos exposed to ethanol (EtOH) with and without an optimal dose of betaine (5 ?M) were analyzed at late developmental stages. Cardiac morphology parameters were rapidly analyzed and quantified using optical coherence tomography. DNA methylation at early stages was detected by immunofluorescent staining for 5-methylcytosine in sections of embryos treated with EtOH or cotreated with betaine. RESULTS:Compared to EtOH-exposed embryos, betaine-supplemented embryos had higher late-stage survival rates and fewer gross head and body defects than seen after alcohol exposure alone. Betaine also reduced the incidence of late-stage cardiac defects such as absent vessels, abnormal atrioventricular (AV) valves, and hypertrophic ventricles. Furthermore, betaine cotreatment brought measurements of great vessel diameters, interventricular septum thickness, and AV leaflet volumes in betaine-supplemented embryos close to control values. Early-stage 5-methycytosine staining revealed that DNA methylation levels were reduced by EtOH exposure and normalized by co-administration with betaine. CONCLUSIONS:This is the first study demonstrating efficacy of the methyl donor betaine in alleviating cardiac defects associated with PAE. These findings highlight the therapeutic potential of low-concentration betaine doses in mitigating PAE-induced birth defects and have implications for prenatal nutrition policies, especially for women who may not be responsive to folate supplementation.
Project description:PURPOSE: Expression of imprinted genes is regulated by DNA methylation of differentially methylated regions (DMRs). Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome is an imprinting disorder caused by epimutations of DMRs at 11p15.5. To date, multiple methylation defects have been reported in Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome patients with epimutations; however, limited numbers of DMRs have been analyzed. The susceptibility of DMRs to aberrant methylation, alteration of gene expression due to aberrant methylation, and causative factors for multiple methylation defects remain undetermined. METHODS: Comprehensive methylation analysis with two quantitative methods, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry and bisulfite pyrosequencing, was conducted across 29 DMRs in 54 Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome patients with epimutations. Allelic expressions of three genes with aberrant methylation were analyzed. All DMRs with aberrant methylation were sequenced. RESULTS: Thirty-four percent of KvDMR1-loss of methylation patients and 30% of H19DMR-gain of methylation patients showed multiple methylation defects. Maternally methylated DMRs were susceptible to aberrant hypomethylation in KvDMR1-loss of methylation patients. Biallelic expression of the genes was associated with aberrant methylation. Cis-acting pathological variations were not found in any aberrantly methylated DMR. CONCLUSION: Maternally methylated DMRs may be vulnerable to DNA demethylation during the preimplantation stage, when hypomethylation of KvDMR1 occurs, and aberrant methylation of DMRs affects imprinted gene expression. Cis-acting variations of the DMRs are not involved in the multiple methylation defects.
Project description:Blood leukocytes from patients with solid tumors exhibit complex and distinct cancer-associated patterns of DNA methylation. However, the biologic mechanisms underlying these patterns remain poorly understood. Because epigenetic biomarkers offer significant clinical potential for cancer detection, we sought to address a mechanistic gap in recently published works, hypothesizing that blood-based epigenetic variation may be due to shifts in leukocyte populations.We identified differentially methylated regions (DMR) among leukocyte subtypes using epigenome-wide DNA methylation profiling of purified peripheral blood leukocyte subtypes from healthy donors. These leukocyte-tagging DMRs were then evaluated using epigenome-wide blood methylation data from three independent case-control studies of different cancers.A substantial proportion of the top 50 leukocyte DMRs were significantly differentially methylated among head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cases and ovarian cancer cases compared with cancer-free controls (48 and 47 of 50, respectively). Methylation classes derived from leukocyte DMRs were significantly associated cancer case status (P < 0.001, P < 0.03, and P < 0.001) for all three cancer types: HNSCC, bladder cancer, and ovarian cancer, respectively and predicted cancer status with a high degree of accuracy (area under the curve [AUC] = 0.82, 0.83, and 0.67).These results suggest that shifts in leukocyte subpopulations may account for a considerable proportion of variability in peripheral blood DNA methylation patterns of solid tumors.This illustrates the potential use of DNA methylation profiles for identifying shifts in leukocyte populations representative of disease, and that such profiles may represent powerful new diagnostic tools, applicable to a range of solid tumors.