Document Type


Original Publication Date


Journal/Book/Conference Title

BMC Clinical Epigenetics


11: 169

First Page


Last Page


DOI of Original Publication



Originally published at

Funded in part by the VCU Libraries Open Access Publishing Fund.

Date of Submission

March 2020


Background Perinatal depressive symptoms have been linked to adverse maternal and infant health outcomes. The etiology associated with perinatal depressive psychopathology is poorly understood, but accumulating evidence suggests that understanding inter-individual differences in DNA methylation (DNAm) patterning may provide insight regarding the genomic regions salient to the risk liability of perinatal depressive psychopathology.

Results Genome-wide DNAm was measured in maternal peripheral blood using the Infinium MethylationEPIC microarray. Ninety-two participants (46% African-American) had DNAm samples that passed all quality control metrics, and all participants were within 7 months of delivery. Linear models were constructed to identify differentially methylated sites and regions, and permutation testing was utilized to assess significance. Differentially methylated regions (DMRs) were defined as genomic regions of consistent DNAm change with at least two probes within 1 kb of each other. Maternal age, current smoking status, estimated cell-type proportions, ancestry-relevant principal components, days since delivery, and chip position served as covariates to adjust for technical and biological factors. Current postpartum depressive symptoms were measured using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. Ninety-eight DMRs were significant (false discovery rate < 5%) and overlapped 92 genes. Three of the regions overlap loci from the latest Psychiatric Genomics Consortium meta-analysis of depression.

Conclusions Many of the genes identified in this analysis corroborate previous allelic, transcriptomic, and DNAm association results related to depressive phenotypes. Future work should integrate data from multi-omic platforms to understand the functional relevance of these DMRs and refine DNAm association results by limiting phenotypic heterogeneity and clarifying if DNAm differences relate to the timing of onset, severity, duration of perinatal mental health outcomes of the current pregnancy or to previous history of depressive psychopathology.


© The Author(s). 2019 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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