Erythrocyte folate concentrations, CpG methylation at genomically imprinted domains, and birth weight in a multiethnic newborn cohort

Cathrine Hoyo, Anne Kjersti Daltveit, Edwin Iversen, Sara E. Benjamin-Neelon, Bernard Fuemmeler, Joellen Schildkraut, Amy P. Murtha, Francine Overcash, Adriana C. Vidal, Frances Wang, Zhiqing Huang, Joanne Kurtzberg, Victoria Seewaldt, Michele Forman, Randy L. Jirtle, Susan K. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Epigenetic mechanisms are proposed to link maternal concentrations of methyl group donor nutrients with the risk of low birth weight. however, empirical data are lacking. We have examined the association between folate and birth weight and assessed the mediating role of DNA methylation at nine differentially methylated regions (DMRs) of genomically imprinted genes in these associations. compared with newborns of women with folate levels in the lowest quartile, birth weight was higher in newborns of mothers in the second (β= 143.2, se = 63.2, P = 0.02), third (β= 117.3, se = 64.0, P = 0.07), and fourth (β= 133.9, se = 65.2, P = 0.04) quartiles, consistent with a threshold effect. This pattern of association did not vary by race/ethnicity but was more apparent in newborns of non-obese women. DNA methylation at the PLAGL1, SGCE, DLK1/MEG3 and IGF2/H19 DMRs was associated with maternal folate levels and also birth weight, suggestive of threshold effects. MEG3 DMR methylation mediated the association between maternal folate levels and birth weight (P = 0.06). While the small sample size and partial scope of examined DMRs limit our conclusions, our data suggest that, with respect to birth weight, no additional benefits may be derived from increased maternal folate concentrations, especially in non-obese women. These data also support epigenetic plasticity as a key mechanistic response to folate availability during early fetal development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1120-1130
Number of pages11
Issue number8
StatePublished - May 22 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Birth weight
  • Epidemiology
  • Epigenetics
  • Folate
  • Imprinted genes
  • Methylation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


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