DNA methylation of Th2 lineage determination genes at birth is associated with allergic outcomes in childhood.
Barton SJ., Ngo S., Costello P., Garratt E., El-Heis S., Antoun E., Clarke-Harris R., Murray R., Bhatt T., Burdge G., Cooper C., Inskip H., van der Beek EM., Sheppard A., Godfrey KM., Lillycrop KA., EpiGen Consortium None.
BACKGROUND: There is now increasing evidence that asthma and atopy originate in part in utero, with disease risk being associated with the altered epigenetic regulation of genes. OBJECTIVE AND METHODS: To determine the relationship between variations in DNA methylation at birth and the development of allergic disease, we examined the methylation status of CpG loci within the promoter regions of Th1/2 lineage commitment genes (GATA3, IL-4, IL-4R, STAT4 and TBET) in umbilical cord DNA at birth in a cohort of infants from the Southampton Women's Survey (n = 696) who were later assessed for asthma, atopic eczema and atopy. RESULTS: We found that higher methylation of GATA3 CpGs -2211/-2209 at birth was associated with a reduced risk of asthma at ages 3 (median ratio [median methylation in asthma group/median methylation in non-asthma group] = 0.74, P = .006) and 6-7 (median ratio 0.90, P = .048) years. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the GATA3 CpG loci associated with later risk of asthma lie within a NF-κB binding site and that methylation here blocks transcription factor binding to the GATA3 promoter in the human Jurkat T-cell line. Associations between umbilical cord methylation of CpG loci within IL-4R with atopic eczema at 12 months (median ratio 1.02, P = .028), and TBET with atopy (median ratio 0.98, P = .017) at 6-7 years of age were also observed. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Our findings provide further evidence of a developmental contribution to the risk of later allergic disorders and suggest that involvement of epigenetic mechanisms in childhood asthma is already demonstrable at birth.