Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Stress During Pregnancy Can Have Long-Lasting Effects on Child's Genes
In this study by Axel Meyer and Thomas Elbert at the University of Konstanz, Germany, whether there is a link between gestational maternal stressors such as IPV (intimate partner violence) and the glucocorticoid promoter gene, and how long beyond infancy the methylation lasts, is examined. Since previous research has already established that both intrauterine exposure to marital discord and GR promoter methylation can predict psychopathology in the child, this study aimed to determine if gestational maternal IPV leads to increased GR promoter methylation. To do this, the participants studied were 25 mother-child pairs, in which the children were between 10 and 19 years old. In addition to taking blood tests and performing a sodium bisulfate conversion to determine the extent of GR promoter methylation, a psychological survey was administered to each of the mothers to determine which of the mothers had been physically or psychologically abused before, during, or after pregnancy.
The results showed that women abused during pregnancy were significantly more likely to have a child with methylated GR promoters. There was no statistically significant correlation between methylated GR promoters and IPV before or after pregnancy, thus showing that GR promoter methylation happens in the fetus in response to maternal stress. The results of this study show that maternal stress-induced changes during pregnancy directly impact the child’s GR gene via methylation, rather than through a direct maternal transmission via germ line.