Adverse childhood experiences, DNA methylation age acceleration and cortisol in UK children: a prospective population-based cohort study

Rosalind Tang, Laura D Howe, Matthew J Suderman, Caroline L Relton, Andrew A Crawford, Lotte C Houtepen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

57 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background
Epigenetic mechanisms may partly explain the persistent effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on health outcomes in later life. DNA methylation can predict chronological age, and advanced methylation-predicted age beyond chronological age (DNA methylation age acceleration) is associated with ACEs, adverse mental and physical health, and elevated diurnal and baseline salivary cortisol. Childhood adversity is also associated with dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which produces the neuroendocrine hormone cortisol. It remains unknown whether these associations are specific to certain types of adversity. Herein, we investigate the associations of ACEs with DNA methylation age acceleration and plasma cortisol in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort.

Methods
In this study of the children in ALSPAC, we used multiple linear regression to examine associations of cumulative exposure to ACE, as well as exposure to ten individual types of ACEs, with Horvath-estimated DNA methylation age acceleration and with baseline plasma cortisol. The ten ACEs were those included in the World Health Organization’s ACE International Questionnaire. Data on ACEs were prospectively collected from age 0–14 years. DNA methylation age acceleration and plasma cortisol were measured at mean 17.1 years and 15.5 years, respectively.

Results
We included 974 UK children in the present study. Exposure to four or more ACEs compared to zero was associated with DNA methylation age acceleration in girls (β, 95% CI = 1.65, 0.25 to 3.04 years) but not in boys (β, 95% CI = − 0.11, − 1.48 to 1.26 years). Also, in girls, emotional abuse and physical abuse were each associated with DNA methylation age acceleration (β, 95% CI = 1.20, 0.15 to 2.26 years and β, 95% CI = 1.22, 0.06 to 2.38 years, respectively). No other ACEs were associated with accelerated DNA methylation age in either sex. Associations were also null between ACE and cortisol, and cortisol and DNA methylation age acceleration.

Conclusions
In this prospective population-based study of UK children, cumulative ACE exposure, emotional abuse, and physical abuse between age 0 and 14 years were each associated with Horvath-estimated DNA methylation age acceleration at age 17 years in girls but not in boys.
Original languageEnglish
Article number55 (2020)
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Epigenetics
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2020

Keywords

  • adversity
  • adverse childhood experiences
  • child abuse
  • DNA methylation
  • emotional abuse
  • epigenetics
  • longitudinal studies

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Adverse childhood experiences, DNA methylation age acceleration and cortisol in UK children: a prospective population-based cohort study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Projects

    Rework of IEU 2 Relton Programme

    Relton, C. L.

    1/04/1831/03/23

    Project: Research

    Cite this