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Clinical Epigenetics


Geisel School of Medicine


Background: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common chronic liver disease in children in western countries. Adverse early-life exposures are associated with higher liver fat percentages in children. Differential DNA methylation may underlie these associations. We aimed to identify differential DNA methylation in newborns and children associated with liver fat accumulation in childhood. We also examined whether DNA methylation at 22 cytosine-phosphate-guanine sites (CpGs) associated with adult non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is associated with liver fat in children. Within a population-based prospective cohort study, we analyzed epigenome-wide DNA methylation data of 785 newborns and 344 10-year-old children in relation to liver fat fraction at 10 years. DNA methylation was measured using the Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip (Illumina). We measured liver fat fraction by Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Associations of single CpG DNA methylation at the two-time points with liver fat accumulation were analyzed using robust linear regression models. We also analyzed differentially methylation regions using the dmrff package. We looked-up associations of 22 known adult CpGs at both ages with liver fat at 10 years. Results: The median liver fat fraction was 2.0% (95% range 1.3, 5.1). No single CpGs and no differentially methylated regions were associated with liver fat accumulation. None of the 22 known adult CpGs were associated with liver fat in children. Conclusions: DNA methylation at birth and in childhood was not associated with liver fat accumulation in 10-year-old children in this study. This may be due to modest sample sizes or DNA methylation changes being a consequence rather than a determinant of liver fat.



Original Citation

Geurtsen, M.L., Jaddoe, V.W.V., Salas, L.A. et al. Newborn and childhood differential DNA methylation and liver fat in school-age children. Clin Epigenet 12, 3 (2020).