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Clin Epigenetics. 2018 May 8;10:61. doi: 10.1186/s13148-018-0494-z. eCollection 2018.

DNA methylation and socioeconomic status in a Mexican-American birth cohort.

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1Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health (CERCH), School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, CA USA.
Berkeley, USA.
Richmond, USA.



Maternal social environmental stressors during pregnancy are associated with adverse birth and child developmental outcomes, and epigenetics has been proposed as a possible mechanism for such relationships.


In a Mexican-American birth cohort of 241 maternal-infant pairs, cord blood samples were measured for repeat element DNA methylation (LINE-1 and Alu). Linear mixed effects regression was used to model associations between indicators of the social environment (low household income and education, neighborhood-level characteristics) and repeat element methylation. Results from a dietary questionnaire were also used to assess the interaction between maternal diet quality and the social environment on markers of repeat element DNA methylation.


After adjusting for confounders, living in the most impoverished neighborhoods was associated with higher cord blood LINE-1 methylation (β = 0.78, 95%CI 0.06, 1.50, p = 0.03). No other neighborhood-, household-, or individual-level socioeconomic indicators were significantly associated with repeat element methylation. We observed a statistical trend showing that positive association between neighborhood poverty and LINE-1 methylation was strongest in cord blood of infants whose mothers reported better diet quality during pregnancy (pinteraction = 0.12).


Our findings indicate a small yet unexpected positive association between neighborhood-level poverty during pregnancy and methylation of repetitive element DNA in infant cord blood and that this association is possibly modified by diet quality during pregnancy. However, our null findings for other adverse SES indicators do not provide strong evidence for an adverse association between early-life socioeconomic environment and repeat element DNA methylation in infants.


Diet; Epigenetics; Methylation; Repeat element; Social adversity; Socioeconomic status

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