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Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2010 Oct 5;153B(7):1350-4. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.31109.

Maternal smoking during pregnancy is associated with epigenetic modifications of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor-6 exon in adolescent offspring.

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Brain and Body Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.


Prenatal exposure to maternal cigarette smoking (PEMCS) is associated with variations in brain and behavior in adolescence. Epigenetic mechanisms may mediate some of the consequences of PEMCS through methylation of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in genes important for brain development, such as the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). In the current study, we used bisulfite sequencing to assess DNA methylation of the BDNF promoter in the blood of adolescents whose mothers smoked during pregnancy. We demonstrate that PEMCS is associated with higher rates of DNA methylation in the BDNF-6 exon. These results suggest that PEMCS may lead to long-term down-regulation of BDNF expression via the increase of DNA methylation in its promoter region. Such mechanisms could, in turn, lead to modifications in both development and plasticity of the brain exposed in utero to maternal cigarette smoking.

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