Gestational blood levels of toxic metal and essential element mixtures and associations with global DNA methylation in pregnant women and their infants

Kjell Vegard F. Weyde*, Ann Karin Olsen, Nur Duale, Jorke H. Kamstra, Thea S. Skogheim, Ida H. Caspersen, Stephanie M. Engel, Guido Biele, Yankai Xia, Helle M. Meltzer, Heidi Aase, Gro D. Villanger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Background: Pregnant women and their fetuses are exposed to multiple toxic metals that together with variations in essential element levels may alter epigenetic regulation, such as DNA methylation. Objectives: The aim of the study was to investigate the associations between gestational levels of toxic metals and essential elements and mixtures thereof, with global DNA methylation levels in pregnant women and their newborn children. Methods: Using 631 mother-child pairs from a prospective birth cohort (The Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study), we measured maternal blood concentration (gestation week ~18) of five toxic metals and seven essential elements. We investigated associations as individual exposures and two-way interactions, using elastic net regression, and total mixture, using quantile g-computation, with blood levels of 5-methylcytocine (5mC) and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) in mothers during pregnancy and their newborn children (cord blood). Multiple testing was adjusted for using the Benjamini and Hochberg false discovery rate (FDR) approach. Results: The most sensitive marker of DNA methylation appeared to be 5mC levels. In pregnant mothers, elastic net regression indicated associations between 5mC and selenium and lead (non-linear), while in newborns results indicated relationships between maternal selenium, cobalt (non-linear) and mercury and 5mC, as well as copper (non-linear) and 5hmC levels. Several possible two-way interactions were identified (e.g. arsenic and mercury, and selenium and maternal smoking in newborns). None of these findings met the FDR threshold for multiple testing. No net effect was observed in the joint (mixture) exposure-approach using quantile g-computation. Conclusion: We identified few associations between gestational levels of several toxic metals and essential elements and global DNA methylation in pregnant mothers and their newborn children. As DNA methylation dysregulation might be a key mechanism in disease development and thus of high importance for public health, our results should be considered as important candidates to investigate in future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number147621
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume787
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2021

Keywords

  • DNA methylation
  • Essential elements
  • Neonates
  • Pregnant women
  • The Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort study (MoBa)
  • Toxic metals

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