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1.  Epigenetic profiles of pre-diabetes transitioning to type 2 diabetes and nephropathy 
World Journal of Diabetes  2015;6(9):1113-1121.
AIM: To examine DNA methylation profiles in a longitudinal comparison of pre-diabetes mellitus (Pre-DM) subjects who transitioned to type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).
METHODS: We performed DNA methylation study in bisulphite converted DNA from Pre-DM (n = 11) at baseline and at their transition to T2DM using Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation27 BeadChip, that enables the query of 27578 individual cytosines at CpG loci throughout the genome, which are focused on the promoter regions of 14495 genes.
RESULTS: There were 694 CpG sites hypomethylated and 174 CpG sites hypermethylated in progression from Pre-DM to T2DM, representing putative genes involved in glucose and fructose metabolism, inflammation, oxidative and mitochondrial stress, and fatty acid metabolism. These results suggest that this high throughput platform is able to identify hundreds of prospective CpG sites associated with diverse genes that may reflect differences in Pre-DM compared with T2DM. In addition, there were CpG hypomethylation changes associated with a number of genes that may be associated with development of complications of diabetes, such as nephropathy. These hypomethylation changes were observed in all of the subjects.
CONCLUSION: These data suggest that some epigenomic changes that may be involved in the progression of diabetes and/or the development of complications may be apparent at the Pre-DM state or during the transition to diabetes. Hypomethylation of a number of genes related to kidney function may be an early marker for developing diabetic nephropathy.
PMCID: PMC4530325  PMID: 26265998
Epigenetic changes; Pre-diabetes; Diabetes; Nephropathy
2.  Kidney Dysfunction in Adult Offspring Exposed In Utero to Type 1 Diabetes Is Associated with Alterations in Genome-Wide DNA Methylation 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(8):e0134654.
Fetal exposure to hyperglycemia impacts negatively kidney development and function.
Our objective was to determine whether fetal exposure to moderate hyperglycemia is associated with epigenetic alterations in DNA methylation in peripheral blood cells and whether those alterations are related to impaired kidney function in adult offspring.
Twenty nine adult, non-diabetic offspring of mothers with type 1 diabetes (T1D) (case group) were matched with 28 offspring of T1D fathers (control group) for the study of their leukocyte genome-wide DNA methylation profile (27,578 CpG sites, Human Methylation 27 BeadChip, Illumina Infinium). In a subset of 19 cases and 18 controls, we assessed renal vascular development by measuring Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) and Effective Renal Plasma Flow (ERPF) at baseline and during vasodilatation produced by amino acid infusion.
Globally, DNA was under-methylated in cases vs. controls. Among the 87 CpG sites differently methylated, 74 sites were less methylated and 13 sites more methylated in cases vs. controls. None of these CpG sites were located on a gene known to be directly involved in kidney development and/or function. However, the gene encoding DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1)—a key enzyme involved in gene expression during early development–was under-methylated in cases. The average methylation of the 74 under-methylated sites differently correlated with GFR in cases and controls.
Alterations in methylation profile imprinted by the hyperglycemic milieu of T1D mothers during fetal development may impact kidney function in adult offspring. The involved pathways seem to be a nonspecific imprinting process rather than specific to kidney development or function.
PMCID: PMC4530883  PMID: 26258530
3.  CpG Sites Associated with Cigarette Smoking: Analysis of Epigenome-Wide Data from the Sister Study 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2014;122(7):673-678.
Background: Smoking increases the risk of many diseases, and it is also linked to blood DNA methylation changes that may be important in disease etiology.
Objectives: We sought to identify novel CpG sites associated with cigarette smoking.
Methods: We used two epigenome-wide data sets from the Sister Study to identify and confirm CpG sites associated with smoking. One included 908 women with methylation measurements at 27,578 CpG sites using the HumanMethylation27 BeadChip; the other included 200 women with methylation measurements for 473,844 CpG sites using the HumanMethylation450 BeadChip. Significant CpGs from the second data set that were not included in the 27K assay were validated by pyrosequencing in a subset of 476 samples from the first data set.
Results: Our study successfully confirmed smoking associations for 9 previously established CpGs and identified 2 potentially novel CpGs: cg26764244 in GNG12 (p = 9.0 × 10–10) and cg22335340 in PTPN6 (p = 2.9 × 10–05). We also found strong evidence of an association between smoking status and cg02657160 in CPOX (p = 7.3 × 10–7), which has not been previously reported. All 12 CpGs were undermethylated in current smokers and showed an increasing percentage of methylation in former and never-smokers.
Conclusions: We identified 2 potentially novel smoking related CpG sites, and provided independent replication of 10 previously reported CpGs sites related to smoking, one of which is situated in the gene CPOX. The corresponding enzyme is involved in heme biosynthesis, and smoking is known to increase heme production. Our study extends the evidence base for smoking-related changes in DNA methylation.
Citation: Harlid S, Xu Z, Panduri V, Sandler DP, Taylor JA. 2014. CpG sites associated with cigarette smoking: analysis of epigenome-wide data from the Sister Study. Environ Health Perspect 122:673–678;
PMCID: PMC4080519  PMID: 24704585
4.  A Six Months Exercise Intervention Influences the Genome-wide DNA Methylation Pattern in Human Adipose Tissue 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(6):e1003572.
Epigenetic mechanisms are implicated in gene regulation and the development of different diseases. The epigenome differs between cell types and has until now only been characterized for a few human tissues. Environmental factors potentially alter the epigenome. Here we describe the genome-wide pattern of DNA methylation in human adipose tissue from 23 healthy men, with a previous low level of physical activity, before and after a six months exercise intervention. We also investigate the differences in adipose tissue DNA methylation between 31 individuals with or without a family history of type 2 diabetes. DNA methylation was analyzed using Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip, an array containing 485,577 probes covering 99% RefSeq genes. Global DNA methylation changed and 17,975 individual CpG sites in 7,663 unique genes showed altered levels of DNA methylation after the exercise intervention (q<0.05). Differential mRNA expression was present in 1/3 of gene regions with altered DNA methylation, including RALBP1, HDAC4 and NCOR2 (q<0.05). Using a luciferase assay, we could show that increased DNA methylation in vitro of the RALBP1 promoter suppressed the transcriptional activity (p = 0.03). Moreover, 18 obesity and 21 type 2 diabetes candidate genes had CpG sites with differences in adipose tissue DNA methylation in response to exercise (q<0.05), including TCF7L2 (6 CpG sites) and KCNQ1 (10 CpG sites). A simultaneous change in mRNA expression was seen for 6 of those genes. To understand if genes that exhibit differential DNA methylation and mRNA expression in human adipose tissue in vivo affect adipocyte metabolism, we silenced Hdac4 and Ncor2 respectively in 3T3-L1 adipocytes, which resulted in increased lipogenesis both in the basal and insulin stimulated state. In conclusion, exercise induces genome-wide changes in DNA methylation in human adipose tissue, potentially affecting adipocyte metabolism.
Author Summary
Given the important role of epigenetics in gene regulation and disease development, we here present the genome-wide DNA methylation pattern of 476,753 CpG sites in adipose tissue obtained from healthy men. Since environmental factors potentially change metabolism through epigenetic modifications, we examined if a six months exercise intervention alters the DNA methylation pattern as well as gene expression in human adipose tissue. Our results show that global DNA methylation changes and 17,975 individual CpG sites alter the levels of DNA methylation in response to exercise. We also found differential DNA methylation of 39 candidate genes for obesity and type 2 diabetes in human adipose tissue after exercise. Additionally, we provide functional proof that genes, which exhibit both differential DNA methylation and gene expression in human adipose tissue in response to exercise, influence adipocyte metabolism. Together, this study provides the first detailed map of the genome-wide DNA methylation pattern in human adipose tissue and links exercise to altered adipose tissue DNA methylation, potentially affecting adipocyte metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3694844  PMID: 23825961
5.  Identifying CpG sites associated with eczema via random forest screening of epigenome-scale DNA methylation 
Clinical Epigenetics  2015;7(1):68.
The prevalence of eczema is increasing in industrialized nations. Limited evidence has shown the association of DNA methylation (DNA-M) with eczema. We explored this association at the epigenome-scale to better understand the role of DNA-M.
Data from the first generation (F1) of the Isle of Wight (IoW) birth cohort participants and the second generation (F2) were examined in our study. Epigenome-scale DNA methylation of F1 at age 18 years and F2 in cord blood was measured using the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 Beadchip. A total of 307,357 cytosine-phosphate-guanine sites (CpGs) in the F1 generation were screened via recursive random forest (RF) for their potential association with eczema at age 18. Functional enrichment and pathway analysis of resulting genes were carried out using DAVID gene functional classification tool. Log-linear models were performed in F1 to corroborate the identified CpGs. Findings in F1 were further replicated in F2.
The recursive RF yielded 140 CpGs, 88 of which showed statistically significant associations with eczema at age 18, corroborated by log-linear models after controlling for false discovery rate (FDR) of 0.05. These CpGs were enriched among many biological pathways, including pathways related to creating transcriptional variety and pathways mechanistically linked to eczema such as cadherins, cell adhesion, gap junctions, tight junctions, melanogenesis, and apoptosis. In the F2 generation, about half of the 83 CpGs identified in F1 showed the same direction of association with eczema risk as in F1, of which two CpGs were significantly associated with eczema risk, cg04850479 of the PROZ gene (risk ratio (RR) = 15.1 in F1, 95 % confidence interval (CI) 1.71, 79.5; RR = 6.82 in F2, 95 % CI 1.52, 30.62) and cg01427769 of the NEU1 gene (RR = 0.13 in F1, 95 % CI 0.03, 0.46; RR = 0.09 in F2, 95 % CI 0.03, 0.36).
Via epigenome-scaled analyses using recursive RF followed by log-linear models, we identified 88 CpGs associated with eczema in F1, of which 41 were replicated in F2. Several identified CpGs are located within genes in biological pathways relating to skin barrier integrity, which is central to the pathogenesis of eczema. Novel genes associated with eczema risk were identified (e.g., the PROZ and NEU1 genes).
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13148-015-0108-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4508804  PMID: 26199674
Eczema; Allergic disease; DNA methylation; Epigenome-scale; Epigenetics; Random forest; F1 and F2 generations; CpG
6.  G/T Substitution in Intron 1 of the UNC13B Gene Is Associated With Increased Risk of Nephropathy in Patients With Type 1 Diabetes 
Diabetes  2008;57(10):2843-2850.
OBJECTIVE— Genetic and environmental factors modulate the susceptibility to diabetic nephropathy, as initiating and/or progression factors. The objective of the European Rational Approach for the Genetics of Diabetic Complications (EURAGEDIC) study is to identify nephropathy susceptibility genes. We report molecular genetic studies for 127 candidate genes for nephropathy.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS— Polymorphisms were identified through sequencing of promoter, exon, and flanking intron gene regions and a database search. A total of 344 nonredundant SNPs and nonsynonymous variants were tested for association with diabetic nephropathy (persistent albuminuria ≥300 mg/24 h) in a large type 1 diabetes case/control (1,176/1,323) study from three European populations.
RESULTS— Only one SNP, rs2281999, located in the UNC13B gene, was significantly associated with nephropathy after correction for multiple testing. Analyses of 21 additional markers fully characterizing the haplotypic variability of the UNC13B gene showed consistent association of SNP rs13293564 (G/T) located in intron 1 of the gene with nephropathy in the three populations. The odds ratio (OR) for nephropathy associated with the TT genotype was 1.68 (95% CI 1.29–2.19) (P = 1.0 × 10−4). This association was replicated in an independent population of 412 case subjects and 614 control subjects (combined OR of 1.63 [95% CI 1.30–2.05], P = 2.3 × 10−5).
CONCLUSIONS— We identified a polymorphism in the UNC13B gene associated with nephropathy. UNC13B mediates apopotosis in glomerular cells in the presence of hyperglycemia, an event occurring early in the development of nephropathy. We propose that this polymorphism could be a marker for the initiation of nephropathy. However, further studies are needed to clarify the role of UNC13B in nephropathy.
PMCID: PMC2551697  PMID: 18633107
7.  Prenatal antiepileptic exposure associates with neonatal DNA methylation differences 
Epigenetics  2012;7(5):458-463.
Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) are used to treat a variety of neuropsychiatric illnesses commonly encountered in women during their reproductive years, including epilepsy and bipolar disorder. Despite their widespread use, the impact of prenatal exposure on fetal development remains obscure. To evaluate whether AEDs taken by pregnant mothers influence DNA methylation patterns in their neonates, DNA was extracted from the umbilical cord blood of 201 neonates whose mothers were treated for neuropsychiatric illness during pregnancy and interrogated across 27,578 CpG sites using the Illumina HumanMethylation27 BeadChip. The association of each methylation value with the cumulative duration of prenatal AED exposure was examined using a linear mixed model. The average methylation level across all CpG sites was calculated for each subject, and this global methylation measure was evaluated similarly. Neonates with a longer duration of AED exposure in pregnancy showed a decrease in average global methylation (p = 0.0045). Further, DNA methylation of CpG sites in 14 genes significantly decreased with the duration of prenatal AED exposure even after adjusting for multiple comparisons (FDR < 0.05). For a small subset (n = 19) of these neonates, a second tissue, placenta, was available in addition to cord blood. Methylation of 3 of these 14 CpG sites was also significantly decreased in placental tissue. These novel data suggest decreased DNA methylation in neonates of mothers who took AEDs during pregnancy. The long-term stability and potential impact of these changes warrant further attention, and caution may be warranted before prescribing AEDs to pregnant women.
PMCID: PMC3368809  PMID: 22419127
Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs); DNA Methylation; epigenetic; HumanMethylation27 BeadChip; lamotrigine; neonatal; pregnancy
8.  Gestational diabetes mellitus epigenetically affects genes predominantly involved in metabolic diseases 
Epigenetics  2013;8(9):935-943.
Offspring exposed to gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) have an increased risk for chronic diseases, and one promising mechanism for fetal metabolic programming is epigenetics. Therefore, we postulated that GDM exposure impacts the offspring’s methylome and used an epigenomic approach to explore this hypothesis. Placenta and cord blood samples were obtained from 44 newborns, including 30 exposed to GDM. Women were recruited at first trimester of pregnancy and followed until delivery. GDM was assessed after a 75-g oral glucose tolerance test at 24–28 weeks of pregnancy. DNA methylation was measured at > 485,000 CpG sites (Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChips). Ingenuity Pathway Analysis was conducted to identify metabolic pathways epigenetically affected by GDM. Our results showed that 3,271 and 3,758 genes in placenta and cord blood, respectively, were potentially differentially methylated between samples exposed or not to GDM (p-values down to 1 × 10−06; none reached the genome-wide significance levels), with more than 25% (n = 1,029) being common to both tissues. Mean DNA methylation differences between groups were 5.7 ± 3.2% and 3.4 ± 1.9% for placenta and cord blood, respectively. These genes were likely involved in the metabolic diseases pathway (up to 115 genes (11%), p-values for pathways = 1.9 × 10−13 < p < 4.0 × 10−03; including diabetes mellitus p = 4.3 × 10−11). Among the differentially methylated genes, 326 in placenta and 117 in cord blood were also associated with newborn weight. Our results therefore suggest that GDM has epigenetic effects on genes preferentially involved in the metabolic diseases pathway, with consequences on fetal growth and development, and provide supportive evidence that DNA methylation is involved in fetal metabolic programming.
PMCID: PMC3883770  PMID: 23975224
epigenetics; epigenome-wide; in utero; maternal hyperglycemia; DNA methylation; fetal metabolic programming
9.  Epigenetic-aging-signature to determine age in different tissues 
Aging (Albany NY)  2011;3(10):1018-1027.
All tissues of the organism are affected by aging. This process is associated with epigenetic modifications such as methylation changes at specific cytosine residues in the DNA (CpG sites). Here, we have identified an Epigenetic-Aging-Signature which is applicable for many tissues to predict donor age. DNA-methylation profiles of various cell types were retrieved from public data depositories - all using the HumanMethylation27 BeadChip platform which represents 27,578 CpG sites. Five datasets from dermis, epidermis, cervical smear, T-cells and monocytes were used for Pavlidis Template Matching to identify 19 CpG sites that are continuously hypermethylated upon aging (R > 0.6; p-value <10−13). Four of these CpG sites (associated with the genes NPTX2, TRIM58, GRIA2 and KCNQ1DN) and an additional hypomethylated CpG site (BIRC4BP) were implemented in a model to predict donor age. This Epigenetic-Aging-Signature was tested on a validation group of eight independent datasets corresponding to several cell types from different tissues. Overall, the five CpG sites revealed age-associated DNA-methylation changes in all tissues. The average absolute difference between predicted and real chronological age was about 11 years. This method can be used to predict donor age in various cell preparations - for example in forensic analysis.
PMCID: PMC3229965  PMID: 22067257
DNA methylation; epigenetic; predictor; age; tissue
10.  Genome-wide DNA Methylation Profiling of Cell-Free Serum DNA in Esophageal Adenocarcinoma and Barrett Esophagus12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2012;14(1):29-33.
Aberrant DNA methylation (DNAm) is a feature of most types of cancers. Genome-wide DNAm profiling has been performed successfully on tumor tissue DNA samples. However, the invasive procedure limits the utility of tumor tissue for epidemiological studies. While recent data indicate that cell-free circulating DNAm (cfDNAm) profiles reflect DNAm status in corresponding tumor tissues, no studies have examined the association of cfDNAm with cancer or precursors on a genome-wide scale. The objective of this pilot study was to evaluate the putative significance of genome-wide cfDNAm profiles in esophageal adenocarcinoma (EA) and Barrett esophagus (BE, EA precursor). We performed genome-wide DNAm profiling in EA tissue DNA (n = 8) and matched serum DNA (n = 8), in serum DNA of BE (n = 10), and in healthy controls (n = 10) using the Infinium HumanMethylation27 BeadChip that covers 27,578 CpG loci in 14,495 genes. We found that cfDNAm profiles were highly correlated to DNAm profiles in matched tumor tissue DNA (r = 0.92) in patients with EA. We selected the most differentially methylated loci to perform hierarchical clustering analysis. We found that 911 loci can discriminate perfectly between EA and control samples, 554 loci can separate EA from BE samples, and 46 loci can distinguish BE from control samples. These results suggest that genome-wide cfDNAm profiles are highly consistent with DNAm profiles detected in corresponding tumor tissues. Differential cfDNAm profiling may be a useful approach for the noninvasive screening of EA and EA premalignant lesions.
PMCID: PMC3281939  PMID: 22355271
11.  DNA methylation mediates the effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy on birthweight of the offspring 
Background: We examined whether the effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy on birthweight of the offspring was mediated by smoking-induced changes to DNA methylation in cord blood.
Methods: First, we used cord blood of 129 Dutch children exposed to maternal smoking vs 126 unexposed to maternal and paternal smoking (53% male) participating in the GECKO Drenthe birth cohort. DNA methylation was measured using the Illumina HumanMethylation450 Beadchip. We performed an epigenome-wide association study for the association between maternal smoking and methylation followed by a mediation analysis of the top signals [false-discovery rate (FDR) < 0.05]. We adjusted both analyses for maternal age, education, pre-pregnancy BMI, offspring’s sex, gestational age and white blood cell composition. Secondly, in 175 exposed and 1248 unexposed newborns from two independent birth cohorts, we replicated and meta-analysed results of eight cytosine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) sites in the GFI1 gene, which showed the most robust mediation. Finally, we performed functional network and enrichment analysis.
Results: We found 35 differentially methylated CpGs (FDR < 0.05) in newborns exposed vs unexposed to smoking, of which 23 survived Bonferroni correction (P < 1 × 10-7). These 23 CpGs mapped to eight genes: AHRR, GFI1, MYO1G, CYP1A1, NEUROG1, CNTNAP2, FRMD4A and LRP5. We observed partial confirmation as three of the eight CpGs in GFI1 replicated. These CpGs partly mediated the effect of maternal smoking on birthweight (Sobel P < 0.05) in meta-analysis of GECKO and the two replication cohorts. Differential methylation of these three GFI1 CpGs explained 12–19% of the 202 g lower birthweight in smoking mothers. Functional enrichment analysis pointed towards activation of cell-mediated immunity.
Conclusions: Maternal smoking during pregnancy was associated with cord blood methylation differences. We observed a potentially mediating role of methylation in the association between maternal smoking during pregnancy and birthweight of the offspring. Functional network analysis suggested a role in activating the immune system.
PMCID: PMC4588868  PMID: 25862628
Epigenetic epidemiology; epigenome-wide association study; DOHaD; fetal programming; GECKO; ALSPAC; Generation R
12.  Association of DNA methylation with age, gender, and smoking in an Arab population 
Clinical Epigenetics  2015;7(1):6.
Modification of DNA by methylation of cytosines at CpG dinucleotides is a widespread phenomenon that leads to changes in gene expression, thereby influencing and regulating many biological processes. Recent technical advances in the genome-wide determination of single-base DNA-methylation enabled epigenome-wide association studies (EWASs). Early EWASs established robust associations between age and gender with the degree of CpG methylation at specific sites. Other studies uncovered associations with cigarette smoking. However, so far these studies were mainly conducted in Caucasians, raising the question of whether these findings can also be extrapolated to other populations.
Here, we present an EWAS with age, gender, and smoking status in a family study of 123 individuals of Arab descent. We determined DNA methylation at over 450,000 CpG sites using the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip, applied state-of-the-art data processing protocols, including correction for blood cell type heterogeneity and hidden confounders, and eliminated probes containing SNPs at the targeted CpG site using 40× whole-genome sequencing data. Using this approach, we could replicate the leading published EWAS associations with age, gender and smoking, and recovered hallmarks of gender-specific epigenetic changes. Interestingly, we could even replicate the recently reported precise prediction of chronological age based on the methylation of only a few selected CpG sites.
Our study supports the view that when applied with state-of-the art protocols to account for all potential confounders, DNA methylation arrays represent powerful tools for EWAS with more complex phenotypes that can also be successfully applied to non-Caucasian populations.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13148-014-0040-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4320840  PMID: 25663950
DNA methylation; Age; Gender; Smoking; Association study; Epigenetics
13.  Epigenome-Wide Association Study of Fasting Blood Lipids in the Genetics of Lipid Lowering Drugs and Diet Network Study 
Circulation  2014;130(7):565-572.
Genetic research regarding blood lipids has largely focused on DNA sequence variation; few studies have explored epigenetic effects. Genome-wide surveys of DNA methylation may uncover epigenetic factors influencing lipid metabolism.
Methods and Results
To identify whether differential methylation of cytosine-guanine dinucleotides (CpGs) correlated with lipid phenotypes, we isolated DNA from CD4+ T-cells and quantified proportion of sample methylation at over 450,000 CpGs using the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 Beadchip in 991 participants of the Genetics of Lipid Lowering Drugs and Diet Network. We modeled percent methylation at individual CpGs as a function of fasting very low density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL-C) and triglycerides (TG) using mixed linear regression adjusted for age, gender, study site, cell purity, and family structure. Four CpGs (cg00574958, cg17058475, cg01082498, cg09737197) in intron 1 of carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1A (CPT1A) were strongly associated with VLDL-C (P=1.8*10-21 to 1.6*10-8) and TG (P=1.6*10-26 to 1.5*10-9). Array findings were validated by bisulfite sequencing. We performed qPCR experiments demonstrating that methylation of the top CpG (cg00574958) was correlated with CPT1A expression. The association of cg00574958 with TG and CPT1A expression were replicated in the Framingham Heart Study (P=4.1*10-14 and 3.1*10-13, respectively). DNA methylation at CPT1A cg00574958 explained 11.6% and 5.5% of the variation in TG in the discovery and replication cohorts, respectively.
This genome-wide epigenomic study identified CPT1A methylation as strongly and robustly associated with fasting VLDL-C and TG. Identifying novel epigenetic contributions to lipid traits may inform future efforts to identify new treatment targets and/or biomarkers of disease risk.
PMCID: PMC4209699  PMID: 24920721
lipids; lipoproteins; cholesterol; fatty acids; genetics
14.  DNA methylation changes in the postmortem dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of patients with schizophrenia 
Frontiers in Genetics  2014;5:280.
Background: Schizophrenia is a complex psychiatric disorder with a lifetime morbidity rate of 0.5–1.0%. The pathophysiology of schizophrenia still remains obscure. Accumulating evidence indicates that DNA methylation, which is the addition of a methyl group to the cytosine in a CpG dinucleotide, might play an important role in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia.
Methods: To gain further insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying schizophrenia, a genome-wide DNA methylation profiling (27,578 CpG dinucleotides spanning 14,495 genes) of the human dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) was conducted in a large cohort (n = 216) of well characterized specimens from individuals with schizophrenia and non-psychiatric controls, combined with an analysis of genetic variance at ~880,000 SNPs.
Results: Aberrant DNA methylation in schizophrenia was identified at 107 CpG sites at 5% Bonferroni correction (p < 1.99 × 10−6). Of these significantly altered sites, hyper-DNA methylation was observed at 79 sites (73.8%), mostly in the CpG islands (CGIs) and in the regions flanking CGIs (CGI: 31 sites; CGI shore: 35 sites; CGI shelf: 3 sites). Furthermore, a large number of cis-methylation quantitative trait loci (mQTL) were identified, including associations with risk SNPs implicated in schizophrenia.
Conclusions: These results suggest that altered DNA methylation might be involved in the pathophysiology and/or treatment of schizophrenia, and that a combination of epigenetic and genetic approaches will be useful to understanding the molecular mechanism of this complex disorder.
PMCID: PMC4144343  PMID: 25206360
schizophrenia; DNA methylation; SNP; postmortem; array; expression
15.  Exploring genome-wide DNA methylation profiles altered in hepatocellular carcinoma using Infinium HumanMethylation 450 BeadChips 
Epigenetics  2013;8(1):34-43.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) incidence has increased in the US and also has one of the fastest growing death rates of any cancer. The purpose of the current study was to discover novel genome-wide aberrant DNA methylation patterns in HCC tumors that are predominantly HCV-related. Infinium HumanMethylation 450K BeadChip arrays were used to examine genome-wide DNA methylation profiles in 66 pairs of HCC tumor and adjacent non-tumor tissues. After Bonferroni adjustment, a total of 130,512 CpG sites significantly differed in methylation level in tumor compared with non-tumor tissues, with 28,017 CpG sites hypermethylated and 102,495 hypomethylated in tumor tissues. Absolute tumor/non-tumor methylation differences ≥ 20% were found in 24.9% of the hypermethylated and 43.1% of the hypomethylated CpG sites; almost 10,000 CpG sites have ≥ 30% DNA methylation differences. Most (60.1%) significantly hypermethylated CpG sites are located in CpG islands, with 21.6% in CpG shores and 3.6% in shelves. In contrast, only a small proportion (8.2%) of significantly hypomethylated CpG sites are situated in islands, while most are found in open sea (60.2%), shore (17.3%) or shelf (14.3%) regions. A total of 2,568 significant CpG sites (2,441 hypermethylated and 127 hypomethylated) covering 589 genes are located within 684 differentially methylated regions defined as regions with at least two significant CpG sites displaying > 20% methylation differences in the same direction within 250-bp. The top 500 significant CpG sites can significantly distinguish HCC tumor from adjacent tissues with one misclassification. Within adjacent non-tumor tissues, we also identified 75 CpG sites significantly associated with gender, 228 with HCV infection, 17,207 with cirrhosis, and 56 with both HCV infection and cirrhosis after multiple comparisons adjustment. Aberrant DNA methylation profiles across the genome were identified in tumor tissues from US HCC cases that are predominantly related to HCV infection. These results demonstrate the significance of aberrant DNA methylation in HCC tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC3549879  PMID: 23208076
genome-wide; DNA methylation; alterations; hepatocellular carcinoma; 450K BeadChips
Journal of autoimmunity  2013;50:33-37.
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) shows ~ 40% concordance rate in monozygotic twins (MZ) suggesting a role for environmental factors and/or epigenetic modifications in the etiology of the disease. The aim of our study was to dissect the contribution of epigenetic factors, particularly, DNA methylation (DNAm), to the incomplete penetrance of T1D. We performed DNAm profiling in lymphocyte cell lines from 3 monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs discordant for T1D and 6 MZ twin pairs concordant for the disease using HumanMethylation27 BeadChip. This assay assesses the methylation state of 27,578 CpG sites, mostly located within proximal promoter regions. We identified 88 CpG sites displaying significant methylation changes in all T1D-discordant MZ twin pairs. Functional annotation of the genes with distinct CpG methylation profiles in T1D samples showed differential DNAm of immune response and defense response pathways between affected and unaffected twins. Integration of DNAm data with GWAS data mapped several known T1D associated genes, HLA, INS, IL-2RB, CD226, which showed significant differences in DNAm between affected and unaffected of twins. Our findings suggest that abnormalities of DNA methylation patterns, known to regulate gene transcription, may be involved in the pathogenesis of T1D.
PMCID: PMC3995844  PMID: 24210274
type 1 diabetes; DNA methylation; monozygotic twins; transcriptional regulation
17.  Oral contraceptives modify the effect of GATA3 polymorphisms on the risk of asthma at the age of 18 years via DNA methylation 
Clinical Epigenetics  2014;6(1):17.
The prevalence of asthma in girls increases after puberty. Previous studies have detected associations between sex hormones and asthma, as well as between sex hormones and T helper 2 (Th2) asthma-typical immune responses. Therefore, we hypothesized that exogenous or endogenous sex hormone exposure (represented by oral contraceptive pill (OCP) use and early menarche, respectively) are associated with DNA methylation (DNA-M) of the Th2 transcription factor gene, GATA3, in turn affecting the risk of asthma in girls, possibly in interaction with genetic variants.
Blood samples were collected from 245 female participants aged 18 years randomly selected for methylation analysis from the Isle of Wight birth cohort, UK. Information on use of OCPs, age at menarche, and concurrent asthma were assessed by questionnaire. Genome-wide DNA-M was determined using the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 beadchip. In a first stage, we tested the interaction between sex hormone exposure and genetic variants on DNA-M of specific cytosine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) sites. In a second stage, we determined whether these CpG sites interact with genetic variants in GATA3 to explain the risk of asthma.
Interactions between OCP use and seven single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of GATA3 were analyzed for 14 CpG sites (stage 1). The interaction between OCP use and SNP rs1269486 was found to be associated with the methylation level of cg17124583 (P = 0.002, false discovery rate (FDR) adjusted P = 0.04). DNA-M of this same CpG site was also influenced by the interaction between age at menarche and rs1269486 (P = 0.0017). In stage 2, we found that cg17124583 modified the association of SNP rs422628 with asthma risk at the age of 18 years (P = 0.006, FDR adjusted P = 0.04). Subjects with genotype AG showed an increase in average risk ratio (RR) from 0.31 (95% CI: 0.10 to 0.8) to 11.65 (95% CI: 1.71 to 79.5) when methylation level increased from 0.02 to 0.12, relative to genotype AA.
A two-stage model consisting of genetic variants in the GATA3 gene, OCP use, age at menarche, and DNA-M may explain how sex hormones in women can increase the asthma prevalence after puberty.
PMCID: PMC4171400  PMID: 25250096
GATA3 gene; DNA methylation; genetic variants; epigenetics; oral contraceptives; age at menarche; asthma; puberty; adolescence; single nucleotide polymorphism; CpG
18.  Genome-Wide DNA Methylation Differences Between Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitively Normal Controls in Human Frontal Cortex 
Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD  2012;29(3):10.3233/JAD-2012-111223.
Evidence supports a role for epigenetic mechanisms in the pathogenesis of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD), but little has been done on a genome-wide scale to identify potential sites involved in disease. This study investigates human postmortem frontal cortex genome-wide DNA methylation profiles between 12 LOAD and 12 cognitively normal age- and gender-matched subjects. Quantitative DNA methylation is determined at 27,578 CpG sites spanning 14,475 genes via the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation27 BeadArray. Data are analyzed using parallel linear models adjusting for age and gender with empirical Bayes standard error methods. Gene-specific technical and functional validation is performed on an additional 13 matched pair samples, encompassing a wider age range. Analysis reveals 948 CpG sites representing 918 unique genes as potentially associated with LOAD disease status pending confirmation in additional study populations. Across these 948 sites the subtle mean methylation difference between cases and controls is 2.9%. The CpG site with a minimum false discovery rate located in the promoter of the gene Transmembrane Protein 59 (TMEM59) is 7.3% hypomethylated in cases. Methylation at this site is functionally associated with tissue RNA and protein levels of the TMEM59 gene product. The TMEM59 gene identified from our discovery approach was recently implicated in amyloid-β protein precursor post-translational processing, supporting a role for epigenetic change in LOAD pathology. This study demonstrates widespread, modest discordant DNA methylation in LOAD-diseased tissue independent from DNA methylation changes with age. Identification of epigenetic biomarkers of LOAD risk may allow for the development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC3652332  PMID: 22451312
DNA methylation; epigenetics; late onset Alzheimer’s disease; prefrontal cortex
19.  Differential Effects of MYH9 and APOL1 Risk Variants on FRMD3 Association with Diabetic ESRD in African Americans 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002150.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in MYH9 and APOL1 on chromosome 22 (c22) are powerfully associated with non-diabetic end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in African Americans (AAs). Many AAs diagnosed with type 2 diabetic nephropathy (T2DN) have non-diabetic kidney disease, potentially masking detection of DN genes. Therefore, genome-wide association analyses were performed using the Affymetrix SNP Array 6.0 in 966 AA with T2DN and 1,032 non-diabetic, non-nephropathy (NDNN) controls, with and without adjustment for c22 nephropathy risk variants. No associations were seen between FRMD3 SNPs and T2DN before adjusting for c22 variants. However, logistic regression analysis revealed seven FRMD3 SNPs significantly interacting with MYH9—a finding replicated in 640 additional AA T2DN cases and 683 NDNN controls. Contrasting all 1,592 T2DN cases with all 1,671 NDNN controls, FRMD3 SNPs appeared to interact with the MYH9 E1 haplotype (e.g., rs942280 interaction p-value = 9.3E−7 additive; odds ratio [OR] 0.67). FRMD3 alleles were associated with increased risk of T2DN only in subjects lacking two MYH9 E1 risk haplotypes (rs942280 OR = 1.28), not in MYH9 E1 risk allele homozygotes (rs942280 OR = 0.80; homogeneity p-value = 4.3E−4). Effects were weaker stratifying on APOL1. FRMD3 SNPS were associated with T2DN, not type 2 diabetes per se, comparing AAs with T2DN to those with diabetes lacking nephropathy. T2DN-associated FRMD3 SNPs were detectable in AAs only after accounting for MYH9, with differential effects for APOL1. These analyses reveal a role for FRMD3 in AA T2DN susceptibility and accounting for c22 nephropathy risk variants can assist in detecting DN susceptibility genes.
Author Summary
African Americans have high rates of kidney disease attributed to type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, approximately 25% of patients are misclassified and have non-diabetic kidney disease on renal biopsy. The APOL1-MYH9 gene region on chromosome 22 is powerfully associated with non-diabetic kidney diseases in African Americans. Therefore, we tested for interactions between single nucleotide polymorphisms across the genome with APOL1 and MYH9 non-diabetic nephropathy risk variants in African Americans with presumed diabetic nephropathy. Markers in FRMD3, a gene associated with type 1 diabetic nephropathy in Caucasians, appeared to interact with MYH9; however, increased nephropathy risk was seen in diabetic cases lacking two MYH9 risk haplotypes, and protective effects were seen in those with two MYH9 risk haplotypes. Stratified analyses based on the chromosome 22 nephropathy risk haplotypes demonstrated that FRMD3 variants were associated with diabetic nephropathy risk in cases without two MYH9 (or APOL1) risk haplotypes. It appears that African Americans with diabetes and kidney disease who are not chromosome 22 nephropathy risk variant homozygotes are enriched for the presence of diabetic nephropathy and FRMD3 risk alleles. This genetic dissection ultimately allowed for detection of the FRMD3 diabetic nephropathy gene association in a subset of cases enriched for this disorder.
PMCID: PMC3116917  PMID: 21698141
20.  Integrative genomic analysis identifies epigenetic marks that mediate genetic risk for epithelial ovarian cancer 
Both genetic and epigenetic factors influence the development and progression of epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). However, there is an incomplete understanding of the interrelationship between these factors and the extent to which they interact to impact disease risk. In the present study, we aimed to gain insight into this relationship by identifying DNA methylation marks that are candidate mediators of ovarian cancer genetic risk.
We used 214 cases and 214 age-matched controls from the Mayo Clinic Ovarian Cancer Study. Pretreatment, blood-derived DNA was profiled for genome-wide methylation (Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation27 BeadArray) and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, Illumina Infinium HD Human610-Quad BeadArray). The Causal Inference Test (CIT) was implemented to distinguish CpG sites that mediate genetic risk, from those that are consequential or independently acted on by genotype.
Controlling for the estimated distribution of immune cells and other key covariates, our initial epigenome-wide association analysis revealed 1,993 significantly differentially methylated CpGs that between cases and controls (FDR, q < 0.05). The relationship between methylation and case-control status for these 1,993 CpGs was found to be highly consistent with the results of previously published, independent study that consisted of peripheral blood DNA methylation signatures in 131 pretreatment cases and 274 controls. Implementation of the CIT test revealed 17 CpG/SNP pairs, comprising 13 unique CpGs and 17 unique SNPs, which represent potential methylation-mediated relationships between genotype and EOC risk. Of these 13 CpGs, several are associated with immune related genes and genes that have been previously shown to exhibit altered expression in the context of cancer.
These findings provide additional insight into EOC etiology and may serve as novel biomarkers for EOC susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3916313  PMID: 24479488
Integrative genomics; Ovarian cancer; Blood-based DNA methylation
21.  Normal early pregnancy 
Epigenetics  2012;7(7):729-734.
The objective of this study was to analyze genome-wide differential methylation patterns in maternal leukocyte DNA in early pregnant and non-pregnant states. This is an age and body mass index matched case-control study comparing the methylation patterns of 27,578 cytosine-guanine (CpG) sites in 14,495 genes in maternal leukocyte DNA in early pregnancy (n = 14), in the same women postpartum (n = 14), and in nulligravid women (n = 14) on a BeadChip platform. Transient widespread hypomethylation was found in early pregnancy as compared with the non-pregnant states. Methylation of nine genes was significantly different in early pregnancy compared with both postpartum and nulligravid states (< 10% False Discovery Rate). Early pregnancy may be characterized by widespread hypomethylation compared with non-pregnant states; there is no apparent permanent methylation imprint after a normal term gestation. Nine potential candidate genes were identified as differentially methylated in early pregnancy and may play a role in the maternal adaptation to pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC3414393  PMID: 22647708
DNA Methylation; epigenetics; immune; leukocyte; maternal; postpartum; pregnancy
22.  Comparison of genome-wide and gene-specific DNA methylation between ART and naturally conceived pregnancies 
Epigenetics  2015;10(6):474-483.
Data linking assisted reproductive technologies (ART) with aberrant DNA methylation is limited and inconclusive. In addition, most studies to date have analyzed only a small number of CpG sites and focused on methylation changes in placentas, while data on cord blood are scarce. Our aim was to compare DNA methylation in cord blood samples from ART (N = 10) and control pregnancies (N = 8) using a genome-wide approach with the Illumina® Infinium Human Methylation27 array, which interrogates 27,578 CpG sites. A total of 733 (2.7%) of the CpG sites were significantly differentially methylated between the 2 groups (P < 0.05), with an overall relative hypomethylation in the ART group (P < 0.001). Differences in DNA methylation were more pronounced for CpG sites in certain types of genomic locations and were related to baseline methylation levels and distance from CpG islands and transcription start sites. ART was associated with significantly higher variation in DNA methylation, suggesting that differences in DNA methylation between cases and controls may result from stochastic (or random) genome-wide changes in DNA methylation in ART pregnancies. We identified 24 candidate genes with 2 or more CpG sites that were significantly different between the IVF and control groups. The current study provides support for the hypothesis that ART or associated subfertility may be associated with genome-wide changes in DNA methylation, and these changes appear to be, at least in part, due to epigenetic instability in ART pregnancies. Further studies are required in order to determine the extent to which such ART-related epigenetic instability may have phenotypic consequences.
PMCID: PMC4623493  PMID: 25580569
assisted reproductive technology; cord blood; DNA methylation; genome-wide microarray; in vitro fertilization
23.  Widespread DNA hypomethylation at gene enhancer regions in placentas associated with early-onset pre-eclampsia 
Molecular Human Reproduction  2013;19(10):697-708.
Pre-eclampsia is a serious complication of pregnancy that can affect both maternal and fetal outcomes. Early-onset pre-eclampsia (EOPET) is a severe form of pre-eclampsia that is associated with altered physiological characteristics and gene expression in the placenta. DNA methylation is a relatively stable epigenetic modification to DNA that can reflect gene expression, and can provide insight into the mechanisms underlying such expression changes. This case–control study focused on DNA methylation and gene expression of whole chorionic villi samples from 20 EOPET placentas and 20 gestational age-matched controls from pre-term births. DNA methylation was also assessed in placentas affected by late-onset pre-eclampsia (LOPET) and normotensive intrauterine growth restriction (nIUGR). The Illumina HumanMethylation450 BeadChip was used to assess DNA methylation at >480 000 cytosine-guanine dinucleotide (CpG) sites. The Illumina HT-12v4 Expression BeadChip was used to assess gene expression of >45 000 transcripts in a subset of cases and controls. DNA methylation analysis by pyrosequencing was used to follow-up the initial findings in four genes with a larger cohort of cases and controls, including nIUGR and LOPET placentas. Bioinformatic analysis was used to identify overrepresentation of gene ontology categories and transcription factor binding motifs. We identified 38 840 CpG sites with significant (false discovery rate <0.01) DNA methylation alterations in EOPET, of which 282 had >12.5% methylation difference compared with the controls. Significant sites were enriched at the enhancers and low CpG density regions of the associated genes and the majority (74.5%) of these sites were hypomethylated in EOPET. EOPET, but not associated clinical features, such as intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), presented a distinct DNA methylation profile. CpG sites from four genes relevant to pre-eclampsia (INHBA, BHLHE40, SLC2A1 and ADAM12) showed different extent of changes in LOPET and nIUGR. Genome-wide expression in a subset of samples showed that some of the gene expression changes were negatively correlated with DNA methylation changes, particularly for genes that are responsible for angiogenesis (such as EPAS1 and FLT1). Results could be confounded by altered cell populations in abnormal placentas. Larger sample sizes are needed to fully address the possibility of sub-profiles of methylation within the EOPET cohort. Based on DNA methylation profiling, we conclude that there are widespread DNA methylation alterations in EOPET that may be associated with changes in placental function. This property may provide a useful tool for early screening of such placentas. This study identifies DNA methylation changes at many loci previously reported to have altered gene expression in EOPET placentas, as well as in novel biologically relevant genes we confirmed to be differentially expressed. These results may be useful for DNA- methylation-based non-invasive prenatal diagnosis of at-risk pregnancies.
PMCID: PMC3779005  PMID: 23770704
pre-eclampsia; DNA methylation; placenta; 450 K array
24.  Genome Wide Peripheral Blood Leukocyte DNA Methylation Microarrays Identified a Single Association with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases 
Inflammatory bowel diseases  2012;18(12):10.1002/ibd.22956.
Crohn disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) are common forms of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Monozygotic (MZ) twin discordance rates and epidemiologic data implicate that environmental changes and epigenetic factors may play a pathogenic role in IBD. DNA methylation (the methylation of cytosines within CpG dinucleotides) is an epigenetic modification, which can respond to environmental influences. We investigated whether DNA methylation might be connected with IBD in peripheral blood leukocyte (PBL) DNA by utilizing genome-wide microarrays.
Two different high-throughput microarray based methods for genome wide DNA methylation analysis were employed. First, DNA isolated from MZ twin pairs concordant (CD: 4; UC: 3) and discordant (CD: 4; UC: 7) for IBD was interrogated by a custom made methylation specific amplification microarray (MSAM). Second, the recently developed Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip arrays were used on 48 samples of PBL DNA from discordant MZ twin pairs (CD:3; UC:3) and treatment naive pediatric cases of IBD (CD:14; UC:8), as well as controls (n=14). The microarrays were validated with bisulfite pyrosequencing.
The Methylation BeadChip approach identified a single DNA methylation association of IBD at TEPP (testis, prostate and placenta-expressed protein) when DNA isolated selectively from peripheral blood mononuclear cells was analyzed (8.6% increase in methylation between CD and control, FDR=0.0065).
Microarray interrogation of IBD dependent DNA methylation from PBLs appears to have limited ability to detect significant disease associations. More detailed and/or selective approaches may be useful for the elucidation of connections between the DNA methylome and IBD in the future.
PMCID: PMC3812910  PMID: 22467598
inflammatory bowel disease; DNA methylation; peripheral blood; twin; TEPP
25.  A genome-wide methylation study of severe vitamin D deficiency in African American adolescents 
The Journal of pediatrics  2012;162(5):1004-9.e1.
To test the hypothesis that changes in DNA methylation are involved in vitamin D deficiency–related immune cell regulation using an unbiased genome-wide approach combined with a genomic and epigenomic integrative approach.
Study design
We performed a genome-wide methylation scan using the Illumina HumanMethylation 27 BeadChip on leukocytes DNAs of 11 cases of vitamin D deficiency (serum 25(OH)D≤ 25 nmol/L) and 11 age-matched controls (serum 25(OH)D>75 nmol/L); the subjects were African American normal-weight (BMI<85th percentile) males aged 14-19 years. The Limma package was used to analyze each CpG site for differential methylation between cases and controls. To correct for multiple testing, the set of raw p values were converted to false discovery rates (FDR). We also compared our findings with the recent data from GWAS of circulating 25(OH) D levels and then performed a permutation test to examine whether the “double hit” genes were randomly enriched.
A total of 79 CpG sites achieved raw p<0.001. Of the 79 CpG sites, 2 CpG sites survived multiple testing: cg16317961 (raw p=3.5 × 10-6, FDR=0.078, in MAPRE2) and cg04623955 (raw p=5.9 × 10-6, FDR=0.078, in DIO3). Furthermore, 3 out of the 4 genes previously identified in the two GWAS studies were also significant at the methylation level (DHCR7: cg07487535, p=0.015 & cg10763288, p=0.017; CYP2R1: cg25454890, p=0.040; CYP24A1: cg18956481, p=0.022), reflecting significant enrichment (p=0.0098).
Severe vitamin D deficiency is associated with methylation changes in leukocyte DNA. The genomic and epigenomic approach reinforce the crucial roles played by the DHCR7, CYP2R1 and CYP24A1 genes in vitamin D metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3935318  PMID: 23219444
Vitamin D deficiency; DNA methylation; genome-wide association study; African Americans; extreme phenotypes

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