While prenatal nutrition and maternal obesity are recognized as important contributors to epigenetic changes and childhood obesity, the role of paternal obesity in the epigenome of offspring has not been well studied.
To test whether periconception paternal body mass index (BMI) is associated with DNA methylation patterns in newborns, to examine associations between maternal and paternal BMI and the epigenome of offspring, and to examine persistence of epigenetic marks at ages 3 and 7 years.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Project Viva is a prebirth cohort study of mothers and children including 2128 live births that enrolled mothers from April 1999 to July 2002 and followed offspring to adolescence. This study analyzed the subset of participants with available data on paternal BMI and DNA methylation in offspring blood in the newborn period, at age 3 years, and at age 7 years. Data were analyzed from July 2017 to October 2019.
The primary exposure was paternal periconception BMI; associations were adjusted for maternal prepregnancy BMI and stratified according to maternal BMI above or below 25.
Main Outcomes and Measures
The primary outcome was genome-wide DNA methylation patterns in offspring blood collected at birth, age 3 years, and age 7 years.
A total of 429 father-mother-infant triads were included. The mean (SD) periconception paternal BMI was 26.4 (4.0) and mean maternal prepregnancy BMI was 24.5 (5.2); 268 fathers had BMI greater than or equal to 25 (mean [SD], 28.5 [3.3]) and 161 had BMI less than 25 (mean [SD], 22.8 [1.8]). Paternal BMI greater than or equal to 25 was associated with increased offspring birth weight compared with paternal BMI less than 25 (mean [SD] z score, 0.38 [0.91] vs 0.11 [0.96]; P = .004). Cord blood DNA methylation at 9 CpG sites was associated with paternal BMI independent of maternal BMI (q < .05). Methylation at cg04763273, between TFAP2C and BMP7, decreased by 5% in cord blood with every 1-unit increase in paternal BMI (P = 3.13 × 10-8); hypomethylation at this site persisted at ages 3 years and 7 years. Paternal BMI was associated with methylation at cg01029450 in the promoter region of the ARFGAP3 gene; methylation at this site was also associated with lower infant birth weight (β = -0.0003; SD = 0.0001; P = .03) and with higher BMI z score at age 3 years.
Conclusions and Relevance
In this study, paternal BMI was associated with DNA methylation, birth weight, and childhood BMI z score in offspring.