Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationIllinois, Urbana, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9370
Approve DateOctober 7, 2016
Project TitleRogers, Mary P., U. of Illinois, Urbana, IL - To aid research on 'Bridging Early Environment and Reproductive Traits: Epigenetic Patterns in Rural Polish and Polish American Women,' supervised by Dr. Kathryn Clancy
Preliminary abstract: While the relationships between childhood environment and life history traits and genetic variation and life history traits are well-studied independently, the relationships between all three (early life environment, genetics, and life history traits) are often left unexplored. The burgeoning field of epigenetics and lowered costs of epigenetic technology allows anthropologists to approach time old questions of nature verses nurture in new ways. This dissertation research project will examine evolved human responsiveness to the environment in the context of reproductive trait timing, and I specifically focus on the timing of woman’s first menstruation, age at menarche. Age at menarche associates with both genetic and early environmental factors. This proposal builds on current models, which examine variation in pubertal timing within the context of childhood psychosocial and energetic stress (Ellison, 1981; Boyce and Ellis, 2005). In addition to common correlates of age at menarche, I propose to research DNA methylation. I hypothesize that DNA methylation interacts with early environmental factors to produce variation in age at menarche. I take a candidate-gene approach focusing on CYP19A1, a reproductive-related gene, and I will also conduct an epigenome-wide association study to discover variable methylation sites associated with pubertal timing. Participants for this study will be recruited at the Mogielica Human Ecology Study Site in Poland and in urban U.S. cities. This proposed project uses classic anthropological and cutting-edge epigenetic techniques to explore variation in pubertal timing and will address longstanding questions of how environmental exposures can mediate genetic expression.