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Prenatal Smoking Linked to Different DNA Methylation

Differences in global, gene-specific methylation seen in children exposed to maternal smoking

THURSDAY, Sept. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to tobacco smoke in utero may have long-term health effects due to alterations of DNA methylation, according to research published in the September issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Carrie V. Breton, of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and colleagues analyzed data from 348 children who underwent assessment of global DNA methylation using the DNA repetitive elements LINE1 and AluYb8, and 272 who were assessed for gene-specific CpG methylation differences.

The researchers found that children exposed to prenatal tobacco smoke had a significantly lower level of methylation of AluYb8 compared to unexposed children. Significantly higher methylation levels were found in the promoters of the genes AXL and PTPRO.

"In this study, we provide some of the first evidence that differences in methylation patterns occur in children exposed in utero to tobacco smoke," the authors write. "Exposure to maternal smoking affected two types of DNA methylation that have been associated with disease phenotypes: global methylation and promoter CpG island methylation. The effects of smoke exposure differed among children with common variants in genes involved in the detoxification of tobacco smoke. Our findings support the urgent need for research to understand better the potential mechanisms for life-long or transgenerational effects after preventable environmental exposures."

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