Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 36938998
Link to DOI – 10.1002/aur.2915
Autism Res 2023 Mar; ():
Children born preterm are at heightened risk of neurodevelopmental impairments, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The placenta is a key regulator of neurodevelopmental processes, though the precise underlying molecular mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we employed a multi-omic approach to identify placental transcriptomic and epigenetic modifications related to ASD diagnosis at age 10, among children born preterm. Working with the extremely low gestational age (ELGAN) cohort, we hypothesized that a pro-inflammatory placental environment would be predictive of ASD diagnosis at age 10. Placental messenger RNA (mRNA) expression, CpG methylation, and microRNA (miRNA) expression were compared among 368 ELGANs (28 children diagnosed with ASD and 340 children without ASD). A total of 111 genes displayed expression levels in the placenta that were associated with ASD. Within these ASD-associated genes is an ASD regulatory complex comprising key genes that predicted ASD case status. Genes with expression that predicted ASD case status included Ewing Sarcoma Breakpoint Region 1 (EWSR1) (OR: 6.57 (95% CI: 2.34, 23.58)) and Bromodomain Adjacent To Zinc Finger Domain 2A (BAZ2A) (OR: 0.12 (95% CI: 0.03, 0.35)). Moreover, of the 111 ASD-associated genes, nine (8.1%) displayed associations with CpG methylation levels, while 14 (12.6%) displayed associations with miRNA expression levels. Among these, LRR Binding FLII Interacting Protein 1 (LRRFIP1) was identified as being under the control of both CpG methylation and miRNAs, displaying an OR of 0.42 (95% CI: 0.17, 0.95). This gene, as well as others identified as having functional epimutations, plays a critical role in immune system regulation and inflammatory response. In summary, a multi-omic approach was used to identify functional epimutations in the placenta that are associated with the development of ASD in children born preterm, highlighting future avenues for intervention.