Dataset Open Access

Epigenetic Profiling of Social Communication Trajectories and Co-occurring Mental Health Problems: A Prospective, Methylome-wide Association Study

Jolien Rijlaarsdam, Charlotte A.M. Cecil, Caroline L. Relton, Edward D. Barker

While previous studies suggest that both genetic and environmental factors play an important role in the development of autism-related traits, little is known about potential biological mechanisms underlying these associations. Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), we examined prospective associations between DNA methylation (DNAm: N-birth=804, N-age7=877) and trajectories of social communication deficits (8-17 years). Methylomic variation at three loci across the genome (false discovery rate=0.048) differentiated children following high (n=80) versus low (n=724) trajectories of social communication deficits. This differential DNAm was specific to the neonatal period and not observed at age 7. Associations between DNAm and trajectory membership remained robust after controlling for co-occurring mental health problems (i.e., hyperactivity/inattention, conduct problems). The three loci identified at birth were not replicated in the Generation R Study. However, to the best of our knowledge, ALSPAC is the only study to date that is prospective enough to examine DNAm in relation to longitudinal trajectories of social communication deficits from late childhood to late adolescence. Although the present findings might point to potentially novel sites that differentiate between a high versus low trajectory of social communication deficits, the results should be considered tentative until further replicated.

This dataset contains summary statistics for the methylome-wide association study using DNAm data collected from individuals at age 7.

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