DNA methylation in neonates born to women receiving psychiatric care

James W. Schroeder, Alicia K. Smith, Patricia A. Brennan, Karen N. Conneely, Varun Kilaru, Bettina T. Knight, D. Jeffrey Newport, Joseph F. Cubells, Zachary N. Stowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Prenatal exposure both to maternal psychiatric illness and psychiatric medication has been linked with adverse child outcomes that affect physiological, emotional and psychiatric development. Studies suggest that epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation, may facilitate these effects. In this report, we explore the association between maternal psychiatric illness and treatment during pregnancy and neonatal DNA methylation patterns in a prospectively characterized clinical cohort of 201 dyads. Associations between the percent of umbilical cord blood DNA methylated at 27,578 CpG sites and maternal psychiatric diagnosis, symptoms and antidepressant use were evaluated by fitting a separate linear mixed effects model for each CpG site. There differential methylation of CpG sites in TNFRSF21 and CHRNA2 (false discovery rate <0.05), but the average difference in methylation for both CpG sites was less than 3% between each group. The results were not specific to type of antidepressant or duration of the exposure. This study suggests that there are no large effects of maternal psychiatric illness, depressive symptoms or prenatal exposure to antidepressants on neonatal DNA methylation. Delineation of the influence of maternal psychiatric illness and pharmacological exposures on the developing fetuses has critical implications for clinical care during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-414
Number of pages6
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Antidepressants
  • DNA methylation
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Humanmethylation27 beadchip
  • Infinium
  • Prenatal exposures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


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