Background Neonatal adiposity is a risk factor for childhood obesity. Investigating contributors to neonatal adiposity is important for understanding early life obesity risk. Epigenetic changes of metabolic genes in cord blood may contribute to excessive neonatal adiposity and subsequent childhood obesity. This study aims to evaluate the association of cord blood DNA methylation patterns with anthropometric measures and cord blood leptin, a biomarker of neonatal adiposity. Methods A cross-sectional study was performed on a multiethnic cohort of 114 full term neonates born to mothers without gestational diabetes at a university hospital. Cord blood was assayed for leptin and for epigenome-wide DNA methylation profiles via the Illumina 450K platform. Neonatal body composition was measured by air displacement plethysmography. Multivariable linear regression was used to analyze associations between individual CpG sites as well as differentially methylated regions in cord blood DNA with measures of newborn adiposity including anthropometrics (birth weight, fat mass and percent body fat) and cord blood leptin. False discovery rate was estimated to account for multiple comparisons. Results 247 CpG sites as well as 18 differentially methylated gene regions were associated with cord blood leptin but no epigenetic changes were associated with birth weight, fat mass or percent body fat. Genes of interest identified in this study are DNAJA4, TFR2, SMAD3, PLAG1, FGF1, and HNF4A. Conclusion Epigenetic changes in cord blood DNA are associated with cord blood leptin levels, a measure of neonatal adiposity.
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