Original Article | Published:

Age-related sperm DNA methylation changes are transmitted to offspring and associated with abnormal behavior and dysregulated gene expression

Molecular Psychiatry volume 20, pages 9951001 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

Advanced paternal age (APA) has been shown to be a significant risk factor in the offspring for neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. During aging, de novo mutations accumulate in the male germline and are frequently transmitted to the offspring with deleterious effects. In addition, DNA methylation during spermatogenesis is an active process, which is susceptible to errors that can be propagated to subsequent generations. Here we test the hypothesis that the integrity of germline DNA methylation is compromised during the aging process. A genome-wide DNA methylation screen comparing sperm from young and old mice revealed a significant loss of methylation in the older mice in regions associated with transcriptional regulation. The offspring of older fathers had reduced exploratory and startle behaviors and exhibited similar brain DNA methylation abnormalities as observed in the paternal sperm. Offspring from old fathers also had transcriptional dysregulation of developmental genes implicated in autism and schizophrenia. Our findings demonstrate that DNA methylation abnormalities arising in the sperm of old fathers are a plausible mechanism to explain some of the risks that APA poses to resulting offspring.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Dr Timothy Bestor for invaluable help with experimental design and helpful discussions; Jackie Tinsley, Prashant Donthamsetti, Heather El-Amamy and Matthew Gingrich for experimental help; Caitlin McOmish for helpful discussions. This research was supported by grants from the Simons Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health (5R21MH073794) to JAG, the G Harold & Leila Y Mathers Foundation to DM and JAG; a NARSAD Young Investigator Award and Sackler Award to MHM.

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Affiliations

  1. Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University and The New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY, USA

    • M H Milekic
    • , Y Xin
    • , K K Kumar
    • , M Bradley-Moore
    • , H Moore
    • , D Brunner
    •  & J A Gingrich
  2. Department of Genetics and Development, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

    • A O’Donnell
  3. Department of Psychiatry, New York University, New York, NY, USA

    • D Malaspina
  4. Department of Psychiatry, New York University, and The NY OMH Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, New York, NY, USA

    • D Malaspina
  5. PsychoGenics, New York, NY, USA

    • D Brunner
  6. Department of Neurology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA

    • Y Ge
  7. Center for Pharmacogenomics, Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO, USA

    • J Edwards
  8. Helen & Robert Appel Institute for Alzheimer's Research, Mind and Brain Institute, Weill Cornell Medical School, New York, NY, USA

    • S Paul
  9. Department of Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA

    • F G Haghighi

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The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to M H Milekic.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2014.84

Supplementary Information accompanies the paper on the Molecular Psychiatry website (http://www.nature.com/mp)

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