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Epigenetics. 2013 Sep;8(9):935-43. doi: 10.4161/epi.25578. Epub 2013 Jul 18.

Gestational diabetes mellitus epigenetically affects genes predominantly involved in metabolic diseases.

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Department of Biochemistry; Université de Sherbrooke; Sherbrooke, QC Canada; ECOGENE-21 Laboratory and Lipid Clinic; Chicoutimi Hospital; Saguenay, QC Canada; These authors contributed equally to this work.


Offspring exposed to gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) have an increased risk for chronic diseases, and one promising mechanism for fetal metabolic programming is epigenetics. Therefore, we postulated that GDM exposure impacts the offspring's methylome and used an epigenomic approach to explore this hypothesis. Placenta and cord blood samples were obtained from 44 newborns, including 30 exposed to GDM. Women were recruited at first trimester of pregnancy and followed until delivery. GDM was assessed after a 75-g oral glucose tolerance test at 24-28 weeks of pregnancy. DNA methylation was measured at>485,000 CpG sites (Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChips). Ingenuity Pathway Analysis was conducted to identify metabolic pathways epigenetically affected by GDM. Our results showed that 3,271 and 3,758 genes in placenta and cord blood, respectively, were potentially differentially methylated between samples exposed or not to GDM (p-values down to 1 × 10(-06); none reached the genome-wide significance levels), with more than 25% (n = 1,029) being common to both tissues. Mean DNA methylation differences between groups were 5.7 ± 3.2% and 3.4 ± 1.9% for placenta and cord blood, respectively. These genes were likely involved in the metabolic diseases pathway (up to 115 genes (11%), p-values for pathways = 1.9 × 10(-13)<p<4.0 × 10(-03); including diabetes mellitus p = 4.3 × 10(-11)). Among the differentially methylated genes, 326 in placenta and 117 in cord blood were also associated with newborn weight. Our results therefore suggest that GDM has epigenetic effects on genes preferentially involved in the metabolic diseases pathway, with consequences on fetal growth and development, and provide supportive evidence that DNA methylation is involved in fetal metabolic programming.


DNA methylation; epigenetics; epigenome-wide; fetal metabolic programming; in utero; maternal hyperglycemia

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