Amnion as a surrogate tissue reporter of the effects of maternal preeclampsia on the fetus

Masako Suzuki, Ryo Maekawa, Nicole E. Patterson, David M. Reynolds, Brent R. Calder, Sandra E. Reznik, Hye J. Heo, Francine Hughes Einstein, John M. Greally

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Preeclampsia, traditionally characterized by high blood pressure and proteinuria, is a common pregnancy complication, which affects 2–8 % of all pregnancies. Although children born to women with preeclampsia have a higher risk of hypertension in later life, the mechanism of this increased risk is unknown. DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification that has been studied as a mediator of cellular memory of adverse exposures in utero. Since each cell type in the body has a unique DNA profile, cell subtype composition is a major confounding factor in studies of tissues with heterogeneous cell types. The best way to avoid this confounding effect is by using purified cell types. However, using purified cell types in large cohort translational studies is difficult. The amnion, the inner layer of the fetal membranes of the placenta, is derived from the epiblast and consists of two cell types, which are easy to isolate from the delivered placenta. In this study, we demonstrate the value of using amnion samples for DNA methylation studies, revealing distinctive patterns between fetuses exposed to proteinuria or hypertension and fetuses from normal pregnancies. Results: We performed a genome-wide DNA methylation analysis, HpaII tiny fragment Enrichment by Ligation-mediated PCR (HELP)-tagging, on 62 amnion samples from the placentas of uncomplicated, normal pregnancies and from those with complications of preeclampsia or hypertension. Using a regression model approach, we found 123, 85, and 99 loci with high-confidence hypertension-associated, proteinuria-associated, and hypertension- and proteinuria-associated DNA methylation changes, respectively. A gene ontology analysis showed DNA methylation changes to be selecting genes with different biological processes in exposure status. We also found that these differentially methylated regions overlap loci previously reported as differentially methylated regions in preeclampsia. Conclusions: Our findings support prior observations that preeclampsia is associated with changes of DNA methylation near genes that have previously been found to be dysregulated in preeclampsia. We propose that amniotic membranes represent a valuable surrogate fetal tissue on which to perform epigenome-wide association studies of adverse intrauterine conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number67
JournalClinical Epigenetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 10 2016


  • Amnion
  • DNA methylation
  • Genome-wide
  • HELP-tagging
  • Hypertension
  • Preeclampsia
  • Pregnancy
  • Sodium bisulfite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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