Prenatal Partner Violence Tied to DNA Methylation in Offspring

Maternal gestational intimate-partner violence linked to GR promoter methylation in teens

WEDNESDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News) -- Maternal exposure to intimate-partner violence (IPV) during pregnancy is associated with methylation of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) promoter in adolescent children, according to a study published online July 19 in Translational Psychiatry.

K.M. Radtke, from the University of Konstanz and Center for Psychiatry Reichenau in Germany, and colleagues examined whether intrauterine exposure to IPV affects the epigenetic state of the GR beyond infancy. Bisulfite sequencing of DNA from whole blood was used to assess methylation status of the GR gene in 25 women and their children, from various ethnic backgrounds, 10 to 19 years after birth. These data were combined with a retrospective evaluation of maternal exposure to IPV.

The investigators found that the methylation of the mother's GR gene was not affected by IPV. However, there was a positive relationship between methylation of the GR gene of adolescent children and their mother's experience of IPV during pregnancy. Maternal gestational IPV was associated with methylation of exon 1F in the GR promoter of the offspring.

"This is the first demonstration that gestational exposure to psychological stressors can have a lasting impact on methylation status in human offspring. Our results provide a potential mechanism -- methylation of the GR promoter -- upon which prenatal stress could act, to influence psychological function," the authors write.

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