Epigenetic effects of maternal prenatal stress on offspring : a systematic review

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Title: Epigenetic effects of maternal prenatal stress on offspring : a systematic review
Author: elDandashi, Rahaf
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2021
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202106303258
Thesis level: master's thesis
Degree program: Neurotieteen maisteriohjelma
Master's Programme in Neuroscience
Magisterprogrammet i neurovetenskap
Specialisation: Neurotiede
Abstract: Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene function without affecting the DNA sequence. Epigenetics studies the effects of the environment and behavior on the genome. Researchers have been able to detect several epigenetic modifications such as –DNA methylation, histone acetylation, and microRNA-associated gene silencing. Changes in the epigenome are essential for proper cell function and normal development and can also be induced by environmental factors. Stress is defined as a biological response to physiological and psychological demands which can affect cellular homeostasis. Factors such as prenatal life stress can affect gene function without directly altering the DNA nucleotide sequence. Elevated levels of stress can immobilize with the ability to impair cognitive function. There is evidence that suggests the involvement of epigenetic regulation in disorders such as addiction, depression, schizophrenia, and cognitive dysfunction. Therefore, this systematic review discusses recent findings of the role of epigenetics in prenatal exposure to stress. To achieve this, the thesis will cover different subtopics from genetics, neurobiology, and diseases, neuroscience, biological psychiatry, life sciences, medicine, behavioral brain research, biochemistry & molecular biology, as well as neuroendocrinology. Research questions are 1) Is there an association between epigenetics and prenatal stress? 2) What kind of mechanisms have been found? 3) What kind of techniques have been used in the identification of potential epigenetic mechanisms? What genes are associated with these epigenetic changes?. This study followed the "The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses" (PRISMA) guideline checklist. Eligibility criteria and search terms where be selected and documented to offer the widest range of articles covering the subjects of this study. A literature search was done using PubMed/Medline, Google scholar, and gray literature. The last sample comprised 59 articles. Data were extracted so that the participants, intervention, comparisons, and outcomes were included. The literature search conducted in this systematic review identified a few findings. First is that the majority of animal and human studies found a significant or moderate association between epigenetics and prenatal stress. Second, DNA methylation is the most studied epigenetic mechanism in maternal exposure to stress Third, genome-wide studies were more common in human studies than in animals and the most widely used method used is Infinium HumanMethylation450 Bead Chip. However, the common methods used in human and animal studies are most likely because of the small sample size and causation cannot be determined. Finally, NR3C1 and FKBP5 genes were the most studied in human studies where they showed the strongest association between prenatal stress and epigenetic modifications. While in animal studies, the most studied genes were Bdnf and Dnmt1 as they showed a significant methylation level after maternal prenatal stress exposure. In conclusion, maternal prenatal stress could trigger epigenetic alterations in neonates in both animals and humans. This holistic review detailed and evaluated locus-specific and studies exploring current knowledge about associations between maternal prenatal stress and epigenetic changes.
Subject: epigenetics
prenatal maternal stress
maternal stress exposure epigenomics
prenatal stress
DNA methylation
histone modifications
non coding RNA

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