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PLoS One. 2015 Mar 5;10(3):e0118466. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118466. eCollection 2015.

Ancestry dependent DNA methylation and influence of maternal nutrition.

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Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN, United States of America.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, United States of America.


There is extensive variation in DNA methylation between individuals and ethnic groups. These differences arise from a combination of genetic and non-genetic influences and potential modifiers include nutritional cues, early life experience, and social and physical environments. Here we compare genome-wide DNA methylation in neonatal cord blood from African American (AA; N = 112) and European American (EA; N = 91) participants of the CANDLE Study (Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning in Early Childhood). Our goal is to determine if there are replicable ancestry-specific methylation patterns that may implicate risk factors for diseases that have differential prevalence between populations. To identify the most robust ancestry-specific CpG sites, we replicate our results in lymphoblastoid cell lines from Yoruba African and CEPH European panels of HapMap. We also evaluate the influence of maternal nutrition--specifically, plasma levels of vitamin D and folate during pregnancy--on methylation in newborns. We define stable ancestry-dependent methylation of genes that include tumor suppressors and cell cycle regulators (e.g., APC, BRCA1, MCC). Overall, there is lower global methylation in African ancestral groups. Plasma levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D are also considerably lower among AA mothers and about 60% of AA and 40% of EA mothers have concentrations below 20 ng/ml. Using a weighted correlation analysis, we define a network of CpG sites that is jointly modulated by ancestry and maternal vitamin D. Our results show that differences in DNA methylation patterns are remarkably stable and maternal micronutrients can exert an influence on the child epigenome.

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