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Epigenomics. 2015;7(6):885-96. doi: 10.2217/epi.15.54. Epub 2015 Sep 29.

Altered miRNA expression in the cervix during pregnancy associated with lead and mercury exposure.

Author information

Department of Preventive Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY 10029, USA.
Department of Neonatology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center & Division of Newborn Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital & Harvard Medical School, 330 Brookline Ave, RO 318, Boston, MA 02215, USA.
Department of Environmental Health, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
Laboratory of Environmental Epigenetics, Exposure Epidemiology & Risk Program, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
Department of Clinical Sciences & Community Health University of Milan - Fondazione IRCCS Cà Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Milan, Italy.
Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School & Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, MA 02215, USA.
Center for Nutrition & Health Research, National Institute of Public Health, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.
Division of Research in Public Health, National Institute of Perinatology, Mexico City, Mexico.



Toxic metals including lead and mercury are associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes. This study aimed to assess the association between miRNA expression in the cervix during pregnancy with lead and mercury levels.


We obtained cervical swabs from pregnant women (n = 60) and quantified cervical miRNA expression. Women's blood lead, bone lead and toenail mercury levels were analyzed. We performed linear regression to examine the association between metal levels and expression of 74 miRNAs adjusting for covariates.


Seventeen miRNAs were negatively associated with toenail mercury levels, and tibial bone lead levels were associated with decreased expression of miR-575 and miR-4286.


The findings highlight miRNAs in the human cervix as novel responders to maternal chemical exposure during pregnancy.


blood; bone; cervix; delivery; labor; lead; mercury; miRNA; patella; tibia

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Conflict of interest statement

Financial & competing interests disclosure This work was supported in part by Pilot Project funding from the HSPH-NIEHS Center for Environmental Health (ES000002) and NIH/NIEHS: K23ES022242, K99ES023450, P42ES016454, P30ES23515, R01ES013744, R01ES020268, R01ES021357, the Klarman Scholars Program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the Harvard Catalyst D-MaPS Program and the National Institute of Public Health/Ministry of Health of Mexico. The authors have no other relevant affiliations or financial involvement with any organization or entity with a financial interest in or financial conflict with the subject matter or materials discussed in the manuscript apart from those disclosed. No writing assistance was utilized in the production of this manuscript.

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