Exposure to ambient air pollution in the first 1000 days of life and alterations in the DNA methylome and telomere length in children: A systematic review

Elena Isaevska, Chiara Moccia, Federica Asta, Fabio Cibella, Luigi Gagliardi, Luca Ronfani, Franca Rusconi, Maria Antonietta Stazi, Lorenzo Richiardi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Exposure to air pollution during the first 1000 days of life (from conception to the 2nd year of life) might be of particular relevance for long-term child health. Changes in molecular markers such as DNA methylation and telomere length could underlie the association between air pollution exposure and pollution-related diseases as well as serve as biomarkers for past exposure. The objective of this systematic review was to assess the association between air pollution exposure during pregnancy and the first two years of life and changes in DNA methylation or telomere length in children. Methods: PubMed was searched in October 2020 by using terms relative to ambient air pollution exposure, DNA methylation, telomere length and the population of interest: mother/child dyads and children. Screening and selection of the articles was completed independently by two reviewers. Thirty-two articles matched our criteria. The majority of the articles focused on gestational air pollution exposure and measured DNA methylation/telomere length in newborn cord blood or placental tissue, to study global, candidate-gene or epigenome-wide methylation patterns and/or telomere length. The number of studies in children was limited. Results: Ambient air pollution exposure during pregnancy was associated with global loss of methylation in newborn cord blood and placenta, indicating the beginning of the pregnancy as a potential period of susceptibility. Candidate gene and epigenome-wide association studies provided evidence that gestational exposure to air pollutants can lead to locus-specific changes in methylation, in newborn cord blood and placenta, particularly in genes involved in cellular responses to oxidative stress, mitochondrial function, inflammation, growth and early life development. Telomere length shortening in newborns and children was seen in relation to gestational pollutant exposure. Conclusions: Ambient air pollution during pregnancy is associated with changes in both global and locus-specific DNA methylation and with telomere length shortening. Future studies need to test the robustness of the association across different populations, to explore potential windows of vulnerability and assess the role of the methylation and telomere length as mediators in the association between early exposure to ambient air pollutants and specific childhood health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110504
JournalEnvironmental Research
Volume193
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Keywords

  • Air pollution
  • Children
  • Cord blood
  • Methylation
  • Newborn
  • Placenta
  • Pregnancy
  • Telomere length

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)

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