- BioMed Central Ltd.
Background: To investigate the relationship between early-life stress and glucocorticoid receptor (GR) gene methylation, which may result in long-lasting neurodevelopmental impairment, we performed a longitudinal analysis of the methylation ratio within the GR gene promoter 1F region using next-generation sequencing in preterm infants. Cell-free DNA was extracted from the frozen serum of 19 preterm birth infants at birth and at 1 and 2 months after birth. All were admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit of Juntendo University Shizuoka Hospital between August 2014 and May 2016 and suffered from chronic lung disease (CLD). Through bisulfite amplicon sequencing using an Illumina Miseq system and Bismark-0.15.0 software, we identified the rate of cytosine methylation. Results: Patients' sex and body weight standard deviation were extracted as the associated independent variables at birth. Sex, glucocorticoid administration for treating CLD, and postnatal invasive procedures (surgical operation and blood sampling) were extracted as the associated independent variables at 1 month. Methylation rates increased significantly between postnatal 1 and 2 months at 9 of the 39 CpG sites. Postnatal glucocorticoid administration to treat circulatory collapse was the most-associated independent variable with a positive regression coefficient for a change in methylation rate at these nine CpG sites. It also influenced the methylation ratio at 22 of the 39 CpG sites at 2 months of age. The standard deviation (SD) score at birth was extracted as an independent variable, with a negative regression coefficient at 9 of the 22 CpG sites together with glucocorticoid administration. Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that a prenatal environment that results in intrauterine growth restriction and postnatal relative adrenal insufficiency requiring glucocorticoid administration leads to GR gene methylation. That, in turn, may result in neurodevelopmental disabilities.
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