Maternal binge alcohol consumption has been linked to congenital birth defects in the fetus. Said defects include abnormalities in heart development, a category of disease referred to as Congenital Heart Disease. Given the prevalence of Congenital Heart Disease, with a study showing around 49.9% of women having at least participated in binge alcohol consumption at least once during the early stages of their pregnancy and Congenital Heart Disease being linked to various complications in adulthood, this is a topic relevant to the clinical setting. Alcohol consumption has been linked to decreases in DNA methylation, which generally increases transcriptional expression of nearby genes. This thesis will focus on how alcohol affects the genomic-wide epigenetics of the embryonic heart with the aim of identifying specific genes and sites within those genes that are affected by alcohol exposure in utero. We hypothesize that embryonic mouse hearts exposed to ethanol will show a differential methylation pattern characteristic of hypomethylation versus control hearts not exposed to ethanol. To test this hypothesis, we used oral gavage to administer ethanol to pregnant mice at embryonic age E9.5 (a time associated with heart chamber formation). Maternal mice were sacrificed at E11.5, embryonic hearts were removed, and DNA was extracted for further experimentation with whole genome bisulfite sequencing.

Analysis of whole genome bisulfite sequencing data showed a slight trend towards hypomethylation but suggested no significant changes in the overall methylation pattern in embryonic mouse hearts at the genomic level, but we have independently identified several genes whose expression is depressed in the embryonic mouse following a single maternal binge ethanol dose at E9.5, and thus we are investigating potential alcohol-induced DNA methylation alterations in specific target genes of interest. Future investigations into gene and site-specific DNA methylation profiles as well as other epigenetic modifications should prove useful in our quest to learn how maternal alcohol consumption causes cardiac malformations leading to congenital heart disease.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Steven, Ebert


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Medicine


Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences

Degree Program

Biomedical Sciences



Access Status

Campus Access

Length of Campus-only Access

5 years

Release Date