Epigenetic profiling of social communication trajectories and co-occurring mental health problems: A prospective, methylome-wide association study

Jolien Rijlaarsdam*, Charlotte A.M. Cecil, Caroline L. Relton, Edward D. Barker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

While previous studies suggest that both genetic and environmental factors play an important role in the development of autism-related traits, little is known about potential biological mechanisms underlying these associations. Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), we examined prospective associations between DNA methylation (DNAm: nbirth = 804, nage 7 = 877) and trajectories of social communication deficits at age 8-17 years. Methylomic variation at three loci across the genome (false discovery rate = 0.048) differentiated children following high (n = 80) versus low (n = 724) trajectories of social communication deficits. This differential DNAm was specific to the neonatal period and not observed at 7 years of age. Associations between DNAm and trajectory membership remained robust after controlling for co-occurring mental health problems (i.e., hyperactivity/inattention, conduct problems). The three loci identified at birth were not replicated in the Generation R Study. However, to the best of our knowledge, ALSPAC is the only study to date that is prospective enough to examine DNAm in relation to longitudinal trajectories of social communication deficits from childhood to adolescence. Although the present findings might point to potentially novel sites that differentiate between a high versus low trajectory of social communication deficits, the results should be considered tentative until further replicated.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jan 2021

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