The tissue-specific aspect of genome-wide DNA methylation in newborn and placental tissues: implications for epigenetic epidemiologic studies |February 2021|J Dev Orig Health Dis

Emilie M Herzog 1Alex J EgginkSten P WillemsenRoderick C SliekerJanine F FelixAndrew P StubbsPeter J van der SpekJoyce B J van MeursBastiaan T HeijmansRégine P M Steegers-Theunissen


Epigenetic programming is essential for lineage differentiation, embryogenesis and placentation in early pregnancy. In epigenetic association studies, DNA methylation is often examined in DNA derived from white blood cells, although its validity to other tissues of interest remains questionable. Therefore, we investigated the tissue specificity of epigenome-wide DNA methylation in newborn and placental tissues. Umbilical cord white blood cells (UC-WBC, n = 25), umbilical cord blood mononuclear cells (UC-MNC, n = 10), human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC, n = 25) and placental tissue (n = 25) were obtained from 36 uncomplicated pregnancies. Genome-wide DNA methylation was measured by the Illumina HumanMethylation450K BeadChip. Using UC-WBC as a reference tissue, we identified 3595 HUVEC tissue-specific differentially methylated regions (tDMRs) and 11,938 placental tDMRs. Functional enrichment analysis showed that HUVEC and placental tDMRs were involved in embryogenesis, vascular development and regulation of gene expression. No tDMRs were identified in UC-MNC. In conclusion, the extensive amount of genome-wide HUVEC and placental tDMRs underlines the relevance of tissue-specific approaches in future epigenetic association studies, or the use of validated representative tissues for a certain disease of interest, if available. To this purpose, we herewith provide a relevant dataset of paired, tissue-specific, genome-wide methylation measurements in newborn tissues.

Keywords: EWAS; HUVEC; placenta; tissue specificity; umbilical cord blood.

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