Persistent Changes in Stress Regulatory Genes in Pregnant Woman or a Child With Prenatal Alcohol Exposure
A previsous study has recently shown that binge or heavy levels of alcohol consumption increase deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) methylation and reduce gene expression of proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and period 2 (PER2) in adult human subjects (Gangisetty et al., Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 43, 2019, 212). One hypothesis would be that methylation of these 2 genes is consistently associated with alcohol exposure and could be used as biomarkers to predict risk of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). Results of the present study provided some support for this hypothesis.
The present study conducted a series of studies to determine DNA methylation changes in stress regulatory genes proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and period 2 (PER2) using biological samples from 3 separate cohorts of patients: (i) pregnant women who consumed moderate‐to‐high levels of alcohol or low/unexposed controls, (ii) children with PAE and non–alcohol‐exposed controls, and (iii) children with PAE treated with or without choline.
The study found pregnant women who consumed moderate‐to‐high levels of alcohol and gave birth to PAE children had higher DNA methylation of POMC and PER2. PAE children also had increased methylation of POMC and PER2. The differences in the gene methylation of PER2 and POMC between PAE and controls did not differ by maternal smoking status. PAE children had increased levels of stress hormone cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone. Choline supplementation reduced DNA hypermethylation and increased expression of POMC and PER2 in children with PAE.
These data suggest that PAE significantly elevates DNA methylation of POMC and PER2and increases levels of stress hormones. Furthermore, these results suggest the possibility that measuring DNA methylation levels of PER2 and POMC in biological samples from pregnant women or from children may be useful for identification of a woman or a child with PAE.
In this study, researchers found changes in two genes – POMC, which regulates the stress-response system, and PER2, which influences the body’s biological clock; in women who consumed alcohol moderately to high levels of alcohol during pregnancy and in children who had been exposed to those levels of alcohol in the womb.
Our findings may make it easier to test children for prenatal alcohol exposure and enable early diagnosis and intervention that can help improve the children’s lives,” said Dipak K. Sarkar, lead author of the study, Professor and director of the Endocrine Program in the Department of Animal Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, as per Times Now News.