Abstract / Description of output


Epigenetic scores (EpiScores), reflecting DNA methylation (DNAm)-based surrogates for complex traits, have been developed for multiple circulating proteins. EpiScores for pro-inflammatory proteins, such as C-reactive protein (DNAm CRP), are associated with brain health and cognition in adults and with inflammatory comorbidities of preterm birth in neonates. Social disadvantage can become embedded in child development through inflammation, and deprivation is overrepresented in preterm infants. We tested the hypotheses that preterm birth and socioeconomic status (SES) are associated with alterations in a set of EpiScores enriched for inflammation-associated proteins.

In total, 104 protein EpiScores were derived from saliva samples of 332 neonates born at gestational age (GA) 22.14 to 42.14 weeks. Saliva sampling was between 36.57 and 47.14 weeks. Forty-three (41%) EpiScores were associated with low GA at birth (standardised estimates |0.14 to 0.88|, Bonferroni-adjusted p-value < 8.3 × 10−3). These included EpiScores for chemokines, growth factors, proteins involved in neurogenesis and vascular development, cell membrane proteins and receptors, and other immune proteins. Three EpiScores were associated with SES, or the interaction between birth GA and SES: afamin, intercellular adhesion molecule 5, and hepatocyte growth factor-like protein (standardised estimates |0.06 to 0.13|, Bonferroni-adjusted p-value < 8.3 × 10−3). In a preterm subgroup (n = 217, median [range] GA 29.29 weeks [22.14 to 33.0 weeks]), SES–EpiScore associations did not remain statistically significant after adjustment for sepsis, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, necrotising enterocolitis, and histological chorioamnionitis.

Low birth GA is substantially associated with a set of EpiScores. The set was enriched for inflammatory proteins, providing new insights into immune dysregulation in preterm infants. SES had fewer associations with EpiScores; these tended to have small effect sizes and were not statistically significant after adjusting for inflammatory comorbidities. This suggests that inflammation is unlikely to be the primary axis through which SES becomes embedded in the development of preterm infants in the neonatal period.
Original languageEnglish
Article number84
JournalClinical Epigenetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Epigenetic
  • Inflammation
  • Neonatal
  • Preterm birth
  • Socioeconomic status


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