UBC Faculty Research and Publications

DNA methylation profiling of acute chorioamnionitis-associated placentas and fetal membranes: insights into epigenetic variation in spontaneous preterm births Konwar, Chaini; Price, E. M.; Wang, Li Qing; Wilson, Samantha L.; Terry, Jefferson; Robinson, Wendy P.


Background: Placental inflammation, often presenting as acute chorioamnionitis (aCA), is commonly associated with preterm birth. Preterm birth can have both immediate and long-term adverse effects on the health of the baby. Developing biomarkers of inflammation in the placenta can help to understand its effects and potentially lead to new approaches for rapid prenatal diagnosis of aCA. We aimed to characterize epigenetic variation associated with aCA in placenta (chorionic villi) and fetal membranes (chorion and amnion) to better understand how aCA may impact processes that lead to preterm birth. This study lays the groundwork for development of novel biomarkers for aCA. Methods: Samples from 44 preterm placentas (chorionic villi) as well as matched chorion and amnion for 16 of these cases were collected for this study. These samples were profiled using the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation850 BeadChip to measure DNA methylation (DNAm) at 866,895 CpGs across the genome. An additional 78 placental samples were utilized to independently validate the array findings by pyrosequencing. Results: Using a false discovery rate of < 0.15 and average group difference in DNAm of > 0.05, 66 differentially methylated (DM) CpG sites were identified between aCA cases and non-aCA cases in chorionic villi. For the majority of these 66 DM CpGs, the DNAm profile of the aCA cases as compared to the non-aCA cases trended in the direction of the blood cell DNAm. Interestingly, neutrophil-specific DNAm signatures, but not those associated with other immune cell types, were capable of separating aCA cases from the non-aCA cases. Conclusions: Our results suggest that aCA-associated placentas showed altered DNAm signatures that were not observed in the absence of aCA. This DNAm profile is consistent with the activation of the innate immune response in the placenta and/or reflect increase in neutrophils as a response to inflammation.

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