Early-life social experience affects offspring DNA methylation and later life stress phenotype

Zachary M. Laubach, Julia R. Greenberg, Julie W. Turner, Tracy M. Montgomery, Malit O. Pioon, Maggie A. Sawdy, Laura Smale, Raymond G. Cavalcante, Karthik R. Padmanabhan, Claudia Lalancette, Bridgett vonHoldt, Christopher D. Faulk, Dana C. Dolinoy, Kay E. Holekamp, Wei Perng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Studies in rodents and captive primates suggest that the early-life social environment affects future phenotype, potentially through alterations to DNA methylation. Little is known of these associations in wild animals. In a wild population of spotted hyenas, we test the hypothesis that maternal care during the first year of life and social connectedness during two periods of early development leads to differences in DNA methylation and fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (fGCMs) later in life. Here we report that although maternal care and social connectedness during the den-dependent life stage are not associated with fGCMs, greater social connectedness during the subadult den-independent life stage is associated with lower adult fGCMs. Additionally, more maternal care and social connectedness after den independence correspond with higher global (%CCGG) DNA methylation. We also note differential DNA methylation near 5 genes involved in inflammation, immune response, and aging that may link maternal care with stress phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4398
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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