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Biol Res Nurs. 2014 Oct;16(4):409-20. doi: 10.1177/1099800413508645. Epub 2013 Oct 28.

DNA methylation as a biomarker for preeclampsia.

Author information

College of Nursing, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA
Department of Nursing, College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND, USA.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Richland, WA, USA.
Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND, USA.



Preeclampsia contributes significantly to pregnancy-associated morbidity and mortality as well as future risk of cardiovascular disease in mother and offspring, and preeclampsia in offspring. The lack of reliable methods for early detection limits the opportunities for prevention, diagnosis, and timely treatment.


The purpose of this study was to explore distinct DNA methylation patterns associated with preeclampsia in both maternal cells and fetal-derived tissue that represent potential biomarkers to predict future preeclampsia and inheritance in children.


A convenience sample of nulliparous women (N = 55) in the first trimester of pregnancy was recruited for this prospective study. Genome-wide DNA methylation was quantified in first-trimester maternal peripheral white blood cells and placental chorionic tissue from normotensive women and those with preeclampsia (n = 6/group).


Late-onset preeclampsia developed in 12.7% of women. Significant differences in DNA methylation were identified in 207 individual linked cytosine and guanine (CpG) sites in maternal white blood cells collected in the first trimester (132 sites with gain and 75 sites with loss of methylation), which were common to approximately 75% of the differentially methylated CpG sites identified in chorionic tissue of fetal origin.


This study is the first to identify maternal epigenetic targets and common targets in fetal-derived tissue that represent putative biomarkers for early detection and heritable risk of preeclampsia. Findings may pave the way for diagnosis of preeclampsia prior to its clinical presentation and acute damaging effects, and the potential for prevention of the detrimental long-term sequelae.


biomarker; developmental origins of disease; epigenetics; pregnancy

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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