The COVID-19 pandemic represents a collective trauma that may have enduring stress effects during sensitive periods, such as pregnancy. Prenatal stress may result in epigenetic signatures of stress-related genes (e.g., the serotonin transporter gene, SLC6A4) that may in turn influence infants’ behavioral development. In April 2020, we launched a longitudinal cohort study to assess the behavioral and epigenetic vestiges of COVID-19-related prenatal stress exposure in mothers and infants. COVID-19-related prenatal stress was retrospectively assessed at birth. SLC6A4 methylation was assessed in thirteen CpG sites in mothers and infants’ buccal cells. Infants’ temperament was assessed at 3-month-age. Complete data were available from 108 mother-infant dyads. Greater COVID-19-related prenatal stress was significantly associated with higher infants’ SLC6A4 methylation in seven CpG sites. SLC6A4 methylation at these sites predicted infants’ temperament at 3 months.
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