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Lead (Pb) exposure remains a major concern in the United States (US) and around the world, even following the removal of Pb from gasoline and other products. Environmental Pb exposures from aging infrastructure and housing stock are of particular concern to pregnant women, children, and other vulnerable populations. Exposures during sensitive periods of development are known to influence epigenetic modifications which are thought to be one mechanism of the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) paradigm. To gain insights into early life Pb exposure-induced health risks, we leveraged neonatal dried bloodspots in a cohort of children from Michigan, US to examine associations between blood Pb levels and concomitant DNA methylation profiles (n = 96). DNA methylation analysis was conducted via the Infinium MethylationEPIC array and Pb levels were assessed via high resolution inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (HR-ICP-MS). While at-birth Pb exposure levels were relatively low (average 0.78 µg/dL, maximum of 5.27 ug/dL), we identified associations between DNA methylation and Pb at 33 CpG sites, with the majority (82%) exhibiting reduced methylation with increasing Pb exposure (q < 0.2). Biological pathways related to development and neurological function were enriched amongst top differentially methylated genes by p-value. In addition to increases/decreases in methylation, we also demonstrate that Pb exposure is related to increased variability in DNA methylation at 16 CpG sites. More work is needed to assess the accuracy and precision of metals assessment using bloodspots, but this study highlights the utility of this unique resource to enhance environmental epigenetics research around the world.


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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.