Effects of Maternal Vitamin D Supplementation on the Maternal and Infant Epigenome

Cindy M. Anderson, Shannon L. Gillespie, Doria K. Thiele, Jody L. Ralph, Joyce E. Ohm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Introduction: Mothers and infants are at high risk for inadequate vitamin D status. Mechanisms by which vitamin D may affect maternal and infant DNA methylation are poorly understood. Objective: This study quantified the effects of vitamin D 3 supplementation on DNA methylation in pregnant and lactating women and their breastfed infants. Materials and Methods: In this randomized controlled pilot study, pregnant women received vitamin D 3 400 international units (IU) (n = 6; control) or 3,800 IU (n = 7; intervention) daily from late second trimester through 4-6 weeks postpartum. Epigenome-wide DNA methylation was quantified in leukocytes collected from mothers at birth and mother-infant dyads at 4-6 weeks postpartum. Results: At birth, intervention group mothers showed DNA methylation gain and loss at 76 and 89 cytosine-guanine (CpG) dinucleotides, respectively, compared to controls. Postpartum, methylation gain was noted at 200 and loss at 102 CpGs. Associated gene clusters showed strongest biologic relevance for cell migration/motility and cellular membrane function at birth and cadherin signaling and immune function at postpartum. Breastfed 4-6-week-old infants of intervention mothers showed DNA methylation gain and loss in 217 and 213 CpGs, respectively, compared to controls. Genes showing differential methylation mapped most strongly to collagen metabolic processes and regulation of apoptosis. Conclusions: Maternal vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and lactation alters DNA methylation in mothers and breastfed infants. Additional work is needed to fully elucidate the short- and long-term biologic effects of vitamin D supplementation at varying doses, which could hold important implications for establishing clinical recommendations for prenatal and offspring health promotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-380
Number of pages10
JournalBreastfeeding Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • DNA methylation
  • breastfeeding
  • epigenomics
  • infant
  • lactation
  • pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics
  • Health Policy
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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