ABSTRACT: Birth by cesarean delivery (CD) as opposed to vaginal delivery (VD) is associated with altered health outcomes later in life, including respiratory disorders, allergies and risk of developing type I diabetes. Epigenetic gene regulation is a proposed mechanism by which early life exposures affect later health outcomes. Previously, type of delivery has been found to be associated with differences in global methylation levels, but the sample sizes have been small. We measured global methylation in a large birth cohort to identify whether type of delivery is associated with epigenetic changes.
DNA was isolated from cord blood collected from the University of Michigan Women's & Children Hospital and bisulfite-converted. The Luminometric Methylation Assay (LUMA) and LINE-1 methylation assay were run on all samples in duplicate.
Global methylation data at CCGG sites throughout the genome, as measured by LUMA, were available from 392 births (52% male; 65% CD), and quantitative methylation levels at LINE-1 repetitive elements were available for 407 births (52% male; 64% CD). LUMA and LINE-1 methylation measurements were negatively correlated in this population (Spearman's r = -0.13, p =0.01). LUMA measurements were significantly lower for total CD and planned CD, but not emergency CD when compared to VD (median VD = 74.8, median total CD = 74.4, p = 0.03; median planned CD = 74.2, p = 0.02; median emergency CD = 75.3, p = 0.39). However, this association did not persist when adjusting for maternal age, maternal smoking and infant gender. Furthermore, total CD deliveries, planned CD and emergency CD deliveries were not associated with LINE-1 measurements as compared to VD (median VD = 82.2, median total CD = 81.9, p = 0.19; median planned CD = 81.9, p = 0.19; median emergency CD = 82.1, p = 0.52). This lack of association held when adjusting for maternal age, maternal smoking and infant gender in a multivariable model.
Type of delivery was not associated with global methylation in our population, even after adjustment for maternal age, maternal smoking, and infant gender. While type of birth may be associated with later health outcomes, our data suggest that it does not do so through changes in global genomic methylation.
Clinical epigenetics. 06/2012; 4(1):8.