Epigenetic variability is hypothesized as a regulatory pathway through which prenatal exposures may influence child development and health.
We sought to examine the associations of residential proximity to roadways at birth and epigenome-wide DNA methylation. We also assessed associations of differential methylation with child cognitive outcomes.
We estimated residential proximity to roadways at birth using a geographic information system (GIS) and cord blood methylation using Illumina's HumanMethylation450-array in 482 mother-child pairs in Project Viva. We identified individual CpGs associated with residential-proximity-to-roadways at birth using robust linear regression [[Formula: see text]]. We also estimated association between proximity-to-roadways at birth and methylation of the same sites in blood samples collected at age 7-11 y ([Formula: see text]). We ran the same analyses in the Generation R Study for replication ([Formula: see text]). In Project Viva, we investigated associations of differential methylation at birth with midchildhood cognition using linear regression.
Living closer to major roadways at birth was associated with higher cord blood (and-more weakly-midchildhood blood) methylation of four sites in LAMB2. For each halving of residential-proximity-to-major-roadways, we observed a 0.82% increase in DNA methylation at cg05654765 [95% confidence interval (CI): (0.54%, 1.10%)], 0.88% at cg14099457 [95% CI: (0.56%, 1.19%)], 0.19% at cg03732535 [95% CI: (0.11%, 0.28)], and 1.08% at cg02954987 [95% CI: (0.65%, 1.51%)]. Higher cord blood methylation of these sites was associated with lower midchildhood nonverbal cognitive scores. Our results did not replicate in the Generation R Study.
Our discovery results must be interpreted with caution, given that they were not replicated in a separate cohort. However, living close to major roadways at birth was associated with cord blood methylation of sites in LAMB2-a gene known to be linked to axonal development-in our U.S. cohort. Higher methylation of these sites associated with lower nonverbal cognitive scores at age 7-11 y in the same children. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP2034.