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Mol Psychiatry. 2017 Feb;22(2):250-256. doi: 10.1038/mp.2016.85. Epub 2016 May 24.

Epigenetic profiling of ADHD symptoms trajectories: a prospective, methylome-wide study.

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Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, London, UK.
Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London, London, UK.
MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, London, UK.
Medical Research Council Integrative Epidemiology Unit, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.
University of Exeter Medical School, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a prevalent developmental disorder, associated with a range of long-term impairments. Variation in DNA methylation, an epigenetic mechanism, is implicated in both neurobiological functioning and psychiatric health. However, the potential role of DNA methylation in ADHD symptoms is currently unclear. In this study, we examined data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)-specifically the subsample forming the Accessible Resource for Integrated Epigenomics Studies (ARIES)-that includes (1) peripheral measures of DNA methylation (Illumina 450k) at birth (n=817, 49% male) and age 7 (n=892, 50% male) and (2) trajectories of ADHD symptoms (7-15 years). We first employed a genome-wide analysis to test whether DNA methylation at birth associates with later ADHD trajectories; and then followed up at age 7 to investigate the stability of associations across early childhood. We found that DNA methylation at birth differentiated ADHD trajectories across multiple genomic locations, including probes annotated to SKI (involved in neural tube development), ZNF544 (previously implicated in ADHD), ST3GAL3 (linked to intellectual disability) and PEX2 (related to perixosomal processes). None of these probes maintained an association with ADHD trajectories at age 7. Findings lend novel insights into the epigenetic landscape of ADHD symptoms, highlighting the potential importance of DNA methylation variation in genes related to neurodevelopmental and peroxisomal processes that play a key role in the maturation and stability of cortical circuits.

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