Stress exposure during pregnancy is critically linked with maternal mental health and child development. The effects might involve altered patterns of DNA methylation in specific stress-related genes (i.e., glucocorticoid receptor gene, NR3C1, and serotonin transporter gene, SLC6A4) and might be moderated by the gestational timing of stress exposure. In this study, we report on NR3C1 and SLC6A4 methylation status in Italian mothers and infants who were exposed to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown during different trimesters of pregnancy. From May 2020 to February 2021, 283 mother–infant dyads were enrolled at delivery. Within 24 h from delivery, buccal cells were collected to assess NR3C1 (44 CpG sites) and SLC6A4 (13 CpG sites) methylation status. Principal component (PC) analyses were used to reduce methylation data dimension to one PC per maternal and infant gene methylation. Mother–infant dyads were split into three groups based on the pregnancy trimester (first, second, third), during which they were exposed to the COVID-19 lockdown. Mothers and infants who were exposed to the lockdown during the first trimester of pregnancy had lower NR3C1 and SLC6A4 methylation when compared to counterparts exposed during the second or third trimesters. The effect remained significant after controlling for confounders. Women who were pregnant during the pandemic and their infants might present altered epigenetic biomarkers of stress-related genes. As these epigenetic marks have been previously linked with a heightened risk of maternal psychiatric problems and less-than-optimal child development, mothers and infants should be adequately monitored for psychological health during and after the pandemic.

Maternal and infant NR3C1 and SLC6A4 epigenetic signatures of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown: when timing matters

Nacinovich R;Prefumo F;
2022-01-01

Abstract

Stress exposure during pregnancy is critically linked with maternal mental health and child development. The effects might involve altered patterns of DNA methylation in specific stress-related genes (i.e., glucocorticoid receptor gene, NR3C1, and serotonin transporter gene, SLC6A4) and might be moderated by the gestational timing of stress exposure. In this study, we report on NR3C1 and SLC6A4 methylation status in Italian mothers and infants who were exposed to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown during different trimesters of pregnancy. From May 2020 to February 2021, 283 mother–infant dyads were enrolled at delivery. Within 24 h from delivery, buccal cells were collected to assess NR3C1 (44 CpG sites) and SLC6A4 (13 CpG sites) methylation status. Principal component (PC) analyses were used to reduce methylation data dimension to one PC per maternal and infant gene methylation. Mother–infant dyads were split into three groups based on the pregnancy trimester (first, second, third), during which they were exposed to the COVID-19 lockdown. Mothers and infants who were exposed to the lockdown during the first trimester of pregnancy had lower NR3C1 and SLC6A4 methylation when compared to counterparts exposed during the second or third trimesters. The effect remained significant after controlling for confounders. Women who were pregnant during the pandemic and their infants might present altered epigenetic biomarkers of stress-related genes. As these epigenetic marks have been previously linked with a heightened risk of maternal psychiatric problems and less-than-optimal child development, mothers and infants should be adequately monitored for psychological health during and after the pandemic.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11379/562576
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