Antenatal Steroids and Cord Blood T-cell Glucocorticoid Receptor DNA Methylation and Exon 1 Splicing

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Reproductive Sciences




Betamethasone; Epigenetics; Programming


Antenatal administration of glucocorticoids such as betamethasone (BMZ) during the late preterm period improves neonatal respiratory outcomes. However, glucocorticoids may elicit programming effects on immune function and gene regulation. Here, we test the hypothesis that exposure to antenatal BMZ alters cord blood immune cell composition in association with altered DNA methylation and alternatively expressed Exon 1 transcripts of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) gene in cord blood CD4+ T-cells. Cord blood was collected from 51 subjects in the Antenatal Late Preterm Steroids Trial: 27 BMZ, 24 placebo. Proportions of leukocytes were compared between BMZ and placebo. In CD4+ T-cells, methylation at CpG sites in the GR promoter regions and expression of GR mRNA exon 1 variants were compared between BMZ and placebo. BMZ was associated with an increase in granulocytes (51.6% vs. 44.7% p = 0.03) and a decrease in lymphocytes (36.8% vs. 43.0% p = 0.04) as a percent of the leukocyte population vs. placebo. Neither GR methylation nor exon 1 transcript levels differed between groups. BMZ is associated with altered cord blood leukocyte proportions, although no associated alterations in GR methylation were observed.

Peer Reviewed




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