Background: Studies have recently examined the role of epigenetic mechanisms in preeclampsia pathophysiology. One commonly examined epigenetic process is DNA methylation. This heritable epigenetic marker is involved in many important cellular functions. The aim of this study was to establish the association between DNA methylation and preeclampsia and to critically appraise the roles of major study characteristics that can significantly impact the association between DNA methylation and preeclampsia. Main body: A systematic review was performed by searching PubMed, Web of Science, and EMBASE for original research articles published over time, until May 31, 2019 in English. Eligible studies compared DNA methylation levels in pregnant women with vs. without preeclampsia. Ninety articles were included. Epigenome-wide studies identified hundreds of differentially methylated places/regions in preeclamptic patients. Hypomethylation was the predominant finding in studies analyzing placental tissue (14/19), while hypermethylation was detected in three studies that analyzed maternal white blood cells (3/3). In candidate gene studies, methylation alterations for a number of genes were found to be associated with preeclampsia. A greater number of differentially methylated genes was found when analyzing more severe preeclampsia (70/82), compared to studies analyzing less severe preeclampsia vs. controls (13/27). A high degree of heterogeneity existed among the studies in terms of methodological study characteristics including design (study design, definition of preeclampsia, control group, sample size, confounders), implementation (biological sample, DNA methylation method, purification of DNA extraction, and validation of methylation), analysis (analytical method, batch effect, genotyping, and gene expression), and data presentation (methylation quantification measure, measure of variability, reporting). Based on the results of this review, we provide recommendations for study design and analytical approach for further studies. Conclusions: The findings from this review support the role of DNA methylation in the pathophysiology of preeclampsia. Establishing field-wide methodological and analytical standards may increase value and reduce waste, allowing researchers to gain additional insights into the role of DNA methylation in the pathophysiology of preeclampsia.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Gender Studies