Maternal blood folate concentrations during pregnancy have been previously linked with DNA methylation patterns, but this has been done predominantly through observational studies. We showed recently in an epigenetic analysis of the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) of folic acid supplementation specifically in the second and third trimesters (the EpiFASSTT trial) that methylation at some imprinted genes was altered in cord blood samples in response to treatment. Here, we report on epigenome-wide screening using the Illumina EPIC array (~ 850,000 sites) in these same samples (n = 86).
The top-ranked differentially methylated promoter region (DMR) showed a gain in methylation with folic acid (FA) and was located upstream of the imprint regulator ZFP57. Differences in methylation in cord blood between placebo and folic acid treatment groups at this DMR were verified using pyrosequencing. The DMR also gains methylation in maternal blood in response to FA supplementation. We also found evidence of differential methylation at this region in an independent RCT cohort, the AFAST trial. By altering methylation at this region in two model systems in vitro, we further demonstrated that it was associated with ZFP57 transcription levels.
These results strengthen the link between folic acid supplementation during later pregnancy and epigenetic changes and identify a novel mechanism for regulation of ZFP57. This trial was registered 15 May 2013 at www.isrctn.com as ISRCTN19917787.
- Cord blood
- DNA methylation
- Folic acid