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Differential patterns of whole-genome DNA methylation in institutionalized children and children raised by their biological parents

  • Oksana Yu. Naumova (a1) (a2), Maria Lee (a1), Roman Koposov (a3), Moshe Szyf (a4), Mary Dozier (a5) and Elena L. Grigorenko (a1) (a6)...

Previous studies with nonhuman species have shown that animals exposed to early adversity show differential DNA methylation relative to comparison animals. The current study examined differential methylation among 14 children raised since birth in institutional care and 14 comparison children raised by their biological parents. Blood samples were taken from children in middle childhood. Analysis of whole-genome methylation patterns was performed using the Infinium HumanMethylation27 BeadChip assay (Illumina), which contains 27,578 CpG sites, covering approximately 14,000 gene promoters. Group differences were registered, which were characterized primarily by greater methylation in the institutionalized group relative to the comparison group, with most of these differences in genes involved in the control of immune response and cellular signaling systems, including a number of crucial players important for neural communication and brain development and functioning. The findings suggest that patterns of differential methylation seen in nonhuman species with altered maternal care are also characteristic of children who experience early maternal separation.

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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Elena L. Grigorenko, Child Study Center, Yale University, 230 South Frontage Road, New Haven, CT 06519-1124; E-mail:
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