BACKGROUND: Low birth weight is associated with an increased adult metabolic disease risk. It is widely discussed that poor intra-uterine conditions could induce long-lasting epigenetic modifications, leading to systemic changes in regulation of metabolic genes. To address this, we acquire genome-wide DNA methylation profiles from saliva DNA in a unique cohort of 17 monozygotic monochorionic female twins very discordant for birth weight. We examine if adverse prenatal growth conditions experienced by the smaller co-twins lead to long-lasting DNA methylation changes. RESULTS: Overall, co-twins show very similar genome-wide DNA methylation profiles. Since observed differences are almost exclusively caused by variable cellular composition, an original marker-based adjustment strategy was developed to eliminate such variation at affected CpGs. Among adjusted and unchanged CpGs 3153 are differentially methylated between the heavy and light co-twins at nominal significance, of which 45 show sensible absolute mean beta-value differences. Deep bisulfite sequencing of eight such loci reveals that differences remained in the range of technical variation, arguing against a reproducible biological effect. Analysis of methylation in repetitive elements using methylation-dependent primer extension assays also indicates no significant intra-pair differences. CONCLUSIONS: Severe intra-uterine growth differences observed within these monozygotic twins are not associated with long-lasting DNA methylation differences in cells composing saliva, detectable with up-to-date technologies. Additionally, our results indicate that uneven cell type composition can lead to spurious results and should be addressed in epigenomic studies.
- BECKWITH-WIEDEMANN SYNDROME
- DEVELOPMENTAL ORIGINS
- INFANT GROWTH
- HUMAN SALIVA
Souren, N. Y. P., Lutsik, P., Gasparoni, G., Tierling, S., Gries, J., Riemenschneider, M., Frijns, J. P., Derom, C., Zeegers, M. P. A., & Walter, J. (2013). Adult monozygotic twins discordant for intra-uterine growth have indistinguishable genome-wide DNA methylation profiles. Genome Biology, 14(5), . https://doi.org/10.1186/gb-2013-14-5-r44