Associations between nutrients in one-carbon metabolism and fetal DNA methylation in pregnancies with or without gestational diabetes mellitus

Isma’il Kadam, Mudar Dalloul, Jeanette Hausser, Monique Huntley, Lori Hoepner, Lawrence Fordjour, Joan Hittelman, Anjana Saxena, Jia Liu, Itamar D. Futterman, Howard Minkoff, Xinyin Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), characterized by hyperglycemia that develops during pregnancy, increases the risk of fetal macrosomia, childhood obesity and cardiometabolic disorders later in life. This process has been attributed partly to DNA methylation modifications in growth and stress-related pathways. Nutrients involved with one-carbon metabolism (OCM), such as folate, choline, betaine, and vitamin B12, provide methyl groups for DNA methylation of these pathways. Therefore, this study aimed to determine whether maternal OCM nutrient intakes and levels modified fetal DNA methylation and in turn altered fetal growth patterns in pregnancies with and without GDM. Results: In this prospective study at a single academic institution from September 2016 to June 2019, we recruited 76 pregnant women with and without GDM at 25–33 weeks gestational age and assessed their OCM nutrient intake by diet recalls and measured maternal blood OCM nutrient levels. We also collected placenta and cord blood samples at delivery to examine fetal tissue DNA methylation of the genes that modify fetal growth and stress response such as insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2) and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). We analyzed the association between maternal OCM nutrients and fetal DNA methylation using a generalized linear mixed model. Our results demonstrated that maternal choline intake was positively correlated with cord blood CRH methylation levels in both GDM and non-GDM pregnancies (r = 0.13, p = 0.007). Further, the downstream stress hormone cortisol regulated by CRH was inversely associated with maternal choline intake (r = − 0.36, p = 0.021). Higher maternal betaine intake and serum folate levels were associated with lower cord blood and placental IGF2 DNA methylation (r = − 0.13, p = 0.049 and r = − 0.065, p = 0.034, respectively) in both GDM and non-GDM pregnancies. Further, there was an inverse association between maternal betaine intake and birthweight of infants (r = − 0.28, p = 0.015). Conclusions: In conclusion, we observed a complex interrelationship between maternal OCM nutrients and fetal DNA methylation levels regardless of GDM status, which may, epigenetically, program molecular pathways related to fetal growth and stress response.

Original languageEnglish
Article number137
JournalClinical Epigenetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


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