Scope: DNA methylation patterns are tissue specific and may influence tissue-specific gene regulation. Human studies investigating DNA methylation in relation to environmental factors primarily use blood-derived DNA as a surrogate for DNA from target tissues. It is therefore important to know if DNA methylation changes in blood in response to environmental changes reflect those in target tissues. Folate intake can influence DNA methylation, via altered methyl donor supply. Previously, manipulations of maternal folate intake during pregnancy altered the patterns of DNA methylation in offspring but, to our knowledge, the consequences for maternal DNA methylation are unknown. Given the increased requirement for folate during pregnancy, mothers may be susceptible to aberrant DNA methylation due to folate depletion.
Methods and results: Female mice were fed folate-adequate (2mg folic acid/kg diet) or folate-deplete (0.4mg folic acid/kg diet) diets prior to mating and during pregnancy and lactation. Following weaning, dams were killed and DNA methylation was assessed by pyrosequencing® in blood, liver, and kidney at the Esr1, Igf2 differentially methylated region (DMR)1, Igf2 DMR2, Slc39a4CGI1, and Slc39a4CGI2 loci. We observed tissue-specific differences in methylation at all loci. Folate depletion reduced Igf2 DMR1 and Slc39a4CGI1 methylation across all tissues and altered Igf2 DMR2 methylation in a tissue-specific manner (p<0.05).
Conclusion: Blood-derived DNA methylation measurements may not always reflect methylation within other tissues. Further measurements of blood-derived and tissue-specific methylation patterns are warranted to understand the complexity of tissue-specific responses to altered nutritional exposure.