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Prenatal cigarette smoke is an environmental stressor that has a profound effect on DNA methylation in the exposed offspring. We have previously shown that some of these effects persist throughout childhood and into adolescence. Of interest is whether these signals persist into adulthood. We conducted an analysis to investigate associations between reported maternal smoking in pregnancy and DNA methylation in peripheral blood of women in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) (n=754; mean age 30 years). We observed associations at 15 CpG sites in 11 gene regions, MYO1G, FRMD4A, CYP1A1, CNTNAP2, ARL4C, AHRR, TIFAB, MDM4, AX748264, DRD1, FTO (FDR < 5%). All but two of these CpG sites have previously been identified in relation to prenatal smoke exposure in the offspring at birth and the majority showed persistent hypermethylation among the offspring of smokers. We confirmed that most of these associations were not driven by own smoking and that they were still present 18 years later (N = 656; mean age 48 years). In addition, we replicated findings of a persistent methylation signal related to prenatal smoke exposure in peripheral blood among men in the ALSPAC cohort (N = 230; mean age 53 years). For both participant groups, there was a strong signal of association above that expected by chance at CpG sites previously associated with prenatal smoke exposure in newborns (Wilcoxon rank sum p-value < 2.2 x 10-4). Furthermore, we found that a prenatal smoking score, derived by combining methylation values at these CpG sites, could predict whether the mothers of the ALSPAC women smoked during pregnancy with an AUC 0.69 (95% 0.67, 0.73).
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Early online date31 May 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 May 2018

Structured keywords

  • ICEP


  • maternal smoking
  • in-utero
  • prenatal
  • pregnancy
  • DNA methylation
  • adulthood
  • persistence


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