Epigenome-wide analysis of maternal exposure to green space during gestation and cord blood DNA methylation in the ENVIRONAGE cohort

Rossella Alfano*, Esmée Bijnens, Sabine A S Langie, Tim S Nawrot, Brigitte Reimann, Kenneth Vanbrabant, Congrong Wang, Michelle Plusquin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: DNA methylation programming is sensitive to prenatal life environmental influences, but the impact of maternal exposure to green space on newborns DNA methylation has not been studied yet.

METHODS: We conducted a meta-epigenome-wide association study (EWAS) of maternal exposure to green space during gestation with cord blood DNA methylation in two subsets of the ENVIRONAGE cohort (N = 538). Cord blood DNA methylation was measured by Illumina HumanMethylation 450K in one subset (N = 189) and EPICarray in another (N = 349). High (vegetation height>3 m (m)), low (vegetation height<3 m) and total (including both) high-resolution green space exposures during pregnancy were estimated within 100 m and 1000 m distance around maternal residence. In each subset, we sought cytosine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) sites via linear mixed models adjusted on newborns' sex, ethnicity, gestational age, season at delivery, sampling day, maternal parity, age, smoking, education, and estimated blood cell proportions. EWASs results were meta-analysed via fixed-effects meta-analyses. Differentially methylated regions (DMRs) were identified via ENmix-combp and DMRcate algorithms. Sensitivity analyses were additionally adjusted on PM2.5, distance to major roads, urbanicity and neighborhood income. In the 450K subset, cord blood expression of differentially methylated genes was measured by Agilent microarrays and associated with green space.

RESULTS: 147 DMRs were identified, 85 of which were still significant upon adjustment for PM2.5, distance to major roads, urbanicity and neighborhood income, including HLA-DRB5, RPTOR, KCNQ1DN, A1BG-AS1, HTR2A, ZNF274, COL11A1 and PRSS36 DMRs. One CpG reached genome-wide significance, while 54 CpGs were suggestive significant (p-values<1e-05). Among them, a CpG, hypermethylated with 100 m buffer total green space, was annotated to PAQR9, whose expression decreased with 1000 m buffer low green space (p-value = 1.45e-05).

CONCLUSIONS: Our results demonstrate that maternal exposure to green space during pregnancy is associated with cord blood DNA methylation, mainly at loci organized in regions, in genes playing important roles in neurological development (e.g., HTR2A).

Original languageEnglish
Article number114828
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Research
Issue numberPt 4
Early online date15 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

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