Environmental exposures during fetal and early life may contribute to complex disease later in life such as allergic diseases (AD), neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. The underlying mechanisms are still undiscovered, but changes in the epigenetic regulation of gene expression (such as DNA methylation) is a prominent candidate mechanism.
The study on “Environmental programming of respiratory allergy in childhood: the applicability of saliva to study the effect of environmental exposures on DNA methylation” will broaden Dr Langie’s current work with the analysis of DNA methylation patterns in saliva of children participating in birth cohorts in Flanders. It will explore the hypothesis that prenatal chemical exposures can alter fetal DNA methylation patterns, and thereby predispose the child to develop allergic diseases later in life.
Longitudinal (birth)cohorts are instrumental to study the relation between early-life environmental factors and the development of complex diseases, but investigations are hampered since blood sampling in children is kept minimal for practical and ethical reasons. Saliva is suggested as an alternative DNA source because the samples can be obtained in a decentralized manner with less constraints. It is of interest to know how saliva DNA methylation patterns compare with the blood patterns, with the latter being considered as a reflection of systemic effects.
It’s the project hypothesis that prenatal exposures (environmental pollutants, mother’s lifestyle) can alter fetal DNA methylation patterns, and thereby predispose the child to develop AD later in life. This project will focus on chemical exposures during pregnancy till birth, DNA methylation patterns of children and the association with developing respiratory allergy (RA).
The aims of the project are to:
- identify differentially methylated regions in RA cases versus matched controls;
- characterize if these allergy-related DNA methylation changes occurred as a response to chemical exposure before birth;
- study whether epigenetic changes induced by early life exposures are maintained through childhood.
Altogether, this project will provide new levels of insight in the molecular mechanisms through which prenatal and early life environmental factors predispose children to AD. The use of saliva will simplify the assessment of the impact of environmental exposures on DNA methylation patterns in human biomonitoring studies, especially for children where blood collection is often cumbersome. The ultimate goal is to contribute to the development of prevention strategies (including reduction of chemical exposures), particularly in children, thereby reducing the family and societal burden associated with allergic diseases.
Sabine A.S. Langie, Patrick de Boever, Gudrun Koppen, Anne Schepers, Katarzyna Szarc vel Szic, Ken Op de Beeck, Guy Van Camp, Greet Schoeters and Wim Vanden Berghe. DNA methylation patterns in respiratory allergy cases: comparability of saliva vs. blood, in Abstracts of the UK Molecular Epidemiology Group (MEG) Winter Meeting on The Future of Epidemiology: Biomarkers meet Populations. Newcastle University, United Kingdom, December 6, 2013; Mutagenesis, vol.29, no.2, pp. e4, 2014
Langie SA, Koppen G, Govarts E, Van de Mieroop E, Nelen V, Desager K, De Boever P., Vanden Berghe W., Schoeters G. Allergy: environmental and nutritional programming in childhood. Allergy 68(SI); Supplement 97: pp.629, 2013
LRI Science Award presenatation: Environmental programming of respiratory allergy in childhood: the applicability of saliva to study the effect of environmental exposures on DNA methylation; presented at the 15th Cefic-LRI Annual Workshop 2013
DNA methylation patterns in respiratory allergy cases: comparability of saliva vs. blood, by Sabine A.S. Langie, Patrick de Boever, Gudrun Koppen, Anne Schepers, Katarzyna Szarc vel Szic, Ken Op de Beeck, Guy Van Camp, Greet Schoeters and Wim Vanden Berghe; presented at the winter Meeting of the United Kingdom Molecular Epidemiology Group – The Future of Epidemiology: Biomarkers meet Populations. 6th December 2013, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.