University of Oulu

Dieckmann, L., Lahti-Pulkkinen, M., Kvist, T. et al. Characteristics of epigenetic aging across gestational and perinatal tissues. Clin Epigenet 13, 97 (2021).

Characteristics of epigenetic aging across gestational and perinatal tissues

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Author: Dieckmann, Linda1,2; Lahti-Pulkkinen, Marius3,4,5; Kvist, Tuomas3;
Organizations: 1Department of Translational Psychiatry, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, München, Germany
2International Max Planck Research School for Translational Psychiatry, München, Germany
3Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
4National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
5Centre for Cardiovascular Science, Queen’s Medical Research Institute, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
6Section of Informatics and Data Science, Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, CO, USA
7Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, HiLIFE, University of Helsinki, Human Genetics, Helsinki, Finland
8Medical and Clinical Genetics, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
9Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology- Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Tampere University Hospital and Tampere University, Tampere, Finland
10Children’s Hospital, Helsinki University Hospital and University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
11Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Erasmus MC, Sophia Children’s Hospital, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
12Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
13Hyvinkää Hospital, Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District, Hyvinkää, Finland
14Folkhälsan Research Center, Helsinki, Finland
15Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Human Potential Translational Research Programme, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
16Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore, Singapore
17Faculty of Medicine, PEDEGO Research Unit, MRC Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
18Department of Clinical and Molecular Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
19Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 4.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-06-02


Background: Epigenetic clocks have been used to indicate differences in biological states between individuals of same chronological age. However, so far, only few studies have examined epigenetic aging in newborns—especially regarding different gestational or perinatal tissues. In this study, we investigated which birth- and pregnancy-related variables are most important in predicting gestational epigenetic age acceleration or deceleration (i.e., the deviation between gestational epigenetic age estimated from the DNA methylome and chronological gestational age) in chorionic villus, placenta and cord blood tissues from two independent study cohorts (ITU, n = 639 and PREDO, n = 966). We further characterized the correspondence of epigenetic age deviations between these tissues.

Results: Among the most predictive factors of epigenetic age deviations in single tissues were child sex, birth length, maternal smoking during pregnancy, maternal mental disorders until childbirth, delivery mode and parity. However, the specific factors related to epigenetic age deviation and the direction of association differed across tissues. In individuals with samples available from more than one tissue, relative epigenetic age deviations were not correlated across tissues.

Conclusion: Gestational epigenetic age acceleration or deceleration was not related to more favorable or unfavorable factors in one direction in the investigated tissues, and the relative epigenetic age differed between tissues of the same person. This indicates that epigenetic age deviations associate with distinct, tissue specific, factors during the gestational and perinatal period. Our findings suggest that the epigenetic age of the newborn should be seen as a characteristic of a specific tissue, and less as a general characteristic of the child itself

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Series: Clinical epigenetics
ISSN: 1868-7075
ISSN-E: 1868-7083
ISSN-L: 1868-7075
Volume: 13
Article number: 97
DOI: 10.1186/s13148-021-01080-y
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3123 Gynaecology and paediatrics
Funding: Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL. The ITU and the PREDO studies are funded by Academy of Finland (Award Numbers: 284859, 312670, 1324596). The funder had no role in the design of the ITU study, or conduct of the study, collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data, preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript, or decision to submit the manuscript for publication. ML-P receives funding from the Academy of Finland, University of Helsinki Funds.
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2021. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.