Imprinting methylation predicts hippocampal volumes and hyperintensities and the change with age in later life

Epigenetic imprinting is important for neurogenesis and brain function. Hippocampal volumes and brain hyperintensities in late life have been associated with early life circumstances. Epigenetic imprinting may underpin these associations. Methylation was measured at 982 sites in 13 imprinted locations in blood samples from a longitudinal cohort by bisulphite amplicon sequencing. Hippocampal volumes and hyperintensities were determined at age 64y and 72y using MRI. Hyperintensities were determined in white matter, grey matter and infratentorial regions. Permutation methods were used to adjust for multiple testing. At 64y, H19/IGF2 and NESPAS methylation predicted hippocampal volumes. PEG3 predicted hyperintensities in hippocampal grey matter, and white matter. GNASXL predicted grey matter hyperintensities. Changes with age were predicted for hippocampal volume (MEST1, KvDMR, L3MBTL, GNASXL), white matter (MEST1, PEG3) and hippocampal grey matter hyperintensities (MCTS2, GNASXL, NESPAS, L3MBTL, MCTS2, SNRPN, MEST1). Including childhood cognitive ability, years in education, or socioeconomic status as additional explanatory variables in regression analyses did not change the overall findings. Imprinting methylation in multiple genes predicts brain structures, and their change over time. These findings are potentially relevant to the development of novel tests of brain structure and function across the lifecourse, strategies to improve cognitive outcomes, and our understanding of early influences on brain development and function.
Refereed journal