Epigenetics 2012 Apr 1;7(4):409-14. Epub 2012 Apr 1.
Genetics and Molecular Biology Program, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Prenatal exposure both to maternal psychiatric illness and psychiatric medication has been linked with adverse child outcomes that affect physiological, emotional and psychiatric development. Studies suggest that epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation, may facilitate these effects. In this report, we explore the association between maternal psychiatric illness and treatment during pregnancy and neonatal DNA methylation patterns in a prospectively-characterized clinical cohort of 201 dyads. Associations between the percent of umbilical cord blood DNA methylated at 27,578 CpG sites and maternal psychiatric diagnosis, symptoms and antidepressant use were evaluated by fitting a separate linear mixed effects model for each CpG site. There were no significant changes in neonatal DNA methylation attributable to maternal psychiatric diagnosis or depressive symptoms during pregnancy. Exposure to an antidepressant medication was associated with differential methylation of CpG sites in TNFRSF21 and CHRNA2 (false discovery rate < 0.05), but the average difference in methylation for both CpG sites was less than 3% between each group. The results were not specific to type of antidepressant or duration of the exposure. This study suggests that there are no large effects of maternal psychiatric illness, depressive symptoms or prenatal exposure to antidepressants on neonatal DNA methylation. Delineation of the influence of maternal psychiatric illness and pharmacological exposures on the developing fetuses has critical implications for clinical care during pregnancy.