Large fractions of the human population do not express GSTM1 and GSTT1 (GSTM1/T1) enzymes because of deletions in these genes. These variations affect xenobiotic metabolism and have been evaluated in relation to lung cancer risk, mostly based on null/present gene models. We measured GSTM1/T1 heterozygous deletions, not tested in genome-wide association studies, in 2120 controls and 2100 cases from the Environment And Genetics in Lung cancer Etiology (EAGLE) study. We evaluated their effect on mRNA expression on lung tissue and peripheral blood samples and their association with lung cancer risk overall and by histology types. We tested the null/present, dominant and additive models using logistic regression. Cigarette smoking and gender were studied as possible modifiers. Gene expression from blood and lung tissue cells was strongly down-regulated in subjects carrying GSTM1/T1 deletions by both trend and dominant models (p<0.001). In contrast to the null/present model, analyses distinguishing subjects with 0, 1 or 2 GSTM1/T1 deletions revealed several associations. There was a decreased lung cancer risk in never-smokers (OR=0.44;95%CI=0.23–0.82; p=0.01) and women (OR=0.50;95%CI=0.28–0.90; p=0.02) carrying 1 or 2 GSTM1 deletions. Analogously, male smokers had an increased risk (OR=1.13;95%CI=1.0–1.28; p=0.05) and women a decreased risk (OR=0.78;95%CI=0.63–0.97; p=0.02) for increasing GSTT1 deletions. The corresponding gene-smoking and gene-gender interactions were significant (p<0.05). Our results suggest that decreased activity of GSTM1/T1 enzymes elevates lung cancer risk in male smokers, likely due to impaired carcinogens’ detoxification. A protective effect of the same mutations may be operative in never-smokers and women, possibly because of reduced activity of other genotoxic chemicals.
GST; copy numbers; gene expression; lung cancer; smoking and gender differences
We examined occupational exposures among subjects with sinonasal cancer (SNC) recorded in a population-based registry in the Lombardy Region, the most populated and industrialized Italian region. The registry collects complete clinical information and exposure to carcinogens regarding all SNC cases occurring in the population of the region. In the period 2008–2011, we recorded 210 SNC cases (137 men, 73 women). The most frequent occupational exposures were to wood (44 cases, 21.0%) and leather dust (29 cases, 13.8%), especially among men: 39 cases (28.5%) to wood and 23 cases (16.8%) to leather dust. Exposure to other agents was infrequent (<2%). Among 62 subjects with adenocarcinoma, 50% had been exposed to wood dust and 30.7% to leather dust. The proportions were around 10% in subjects with squamous cell carcinoma and about 20% for tumors with another histology. The age-standardized rates (×100,000 person-years) were 0.7 in men and 0.3 in women. Complete collection of cases and their occupational history through a specialized cancer registry is fundamental to accurately monitor SNC occurrence in a population and to uncover exposure to carcinogens in different industrial sectors, even those not considered as posing a high risk of SNC, and also in extraoccupational settings.
Repetitive elements take up >40% of the human genome and can change distribution through transposition, thus generating subfamilies. Repetitive element DNA methylation has associated with several diseases and environmental exposures, including exposure to airborne pollutants. No systematic analysis has yet been conducted to examine the effects of exposures across different repetitive element subfamilies. The purpose of the study is to evaluate sensitivity of DNA methylation in differentially‒evolved LINE, Alu, and HERV subfamilies to different types of airborne pollutants.
We sampled a total of 120 male participants from three studies (20 high-, 20 low-exposure in each study) of steel workers exposed to metal-rich particulate matter (measured as PM10) (Study 1); gas-station attendants exposed to air benzene (Study 2); and truck drivers exposed to traffic-derived elemental carbon (Study 3). We measured methylation by bisulfite-PCR-pyrosequencing in 10 differentially‒evolved repetitive element subfamilies.
High-exposure groups exhibited subfamily-specific methylation differences compared to low-exposure groups: L1PA2 showed lower DNA methylation in steel workers (P=0.04) and gas station attendants (P=0.03); L1Ta showed lower DNA methylation in steel workers (P=0.02); AluYb8 showed higher DNA methylation in truck drivers (P=0.05). Within each study, dose–response analyses showed subfamily-specific correlations of methylation with exposure levels. Interaction models showed that the effects of the exposures on DNA methylation were dependent on the subfamily evolutionary age, with stronger effects on older LINEs from PM10 (p‒interaction=0.003) and benzene (p‒interaction=0.04), and on younger Alus from PM10 (p-interaction=0.02).
The evolutionary age of repetitive element subfamilies determines differential susceptibility of DNA methylation to airborne pollutants.
Environment; Exposures; DNA methylation; Repetitive elements; Subfamily
De novo tumors (DNT) after liver transplantation (LT) represent a growing concern.
Patients and Methods
We analyzed the incidence of DNT, type, time of onset, risk factors and mortality (as of 2010) in 494 adult patients transplanted in the last 26 years (1983–2009).
DNT occurred in 41 (8.3%) of the patients. The Standardized Incidence Ratio (SIR) compared with the Italian population was 1.8. There was a higher incidence in males (SIR 2.0), an expected extremely high rate of Kaposi’s sarcoma (SIR 127.95) and unexpected higher rates of tumors of the bladder in males (SIR 3.3). The incidence of DNT was higher within the first two years of LT (SIR 2.7) for Kaposi’s sarcoma (SIR 393.3) and after 10 years (SIR 1.7) for bladder tumors (SIR 10.6). Multivariate analysis identified alcoholic cirrhosis (HR = 3.0, 95% CI = 1.2–7.8) and sclerosing cholangitis (HR = 3.5, 95% CI = 1.1–11.3) in the recipient as main risk factors for the occurrence of DNT.
Surveillance protocols for DNT must be specifically oriented to patients transplanted for alcoholic cirrhosis and sclerosing cholangitis. They should focus on early detection of Kaposi’s sarcomas, and more remarkably, on late development bladder tumors in men after LT.
Background Exposure to occupational carcinogens is an important preventable cause of lung cancer. Most of the previous studies were in highly exposed industrial cohorts. Our aim was to quantify lung cancer burden attributable to occupational carcinogens in a general population.
Methods We applied a new job–exposure matrix (JEM) to translate lifetime work histories, collected by personal interview and coded into standard job titles, into never, low and high exposure levels for six known/suspected occupational lung carcinogens in the Environment and Genetics in Lung cancer Etiology (EAGLE) population-based case–control study, conducted in Lombardy region, Italy, in 2002–05. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated in men (1537 cases and 1617 controls), by logistic regression adjusted for potential confounders, including smoking and co-exposure to JEM carcinogens. The population attributable fraction (PAF) was estimated as impact measure.
Results Men showed an increased lung cancer risk even at low exposure to asbestos (OR: 1.76; 95% CI: 1.42–2.18), crystalline silica (OR: 1.31; 95% CI: 1.00–1.71) and nickel–chromium (OR: 1.18; 95% CI: 0.90–1.53); risk increased with exposure level. For polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, an increased risk (OR: 1.64; 95% CI: 0.99–2.70) was found only for high exposures. The PAFs for any exposure to asbestos, silica and nickel–chromium were 18.1, 5.7 and 7.0%, respectively, equivalent to an overall PAF of 22.5% (95% CI: 14.1–30.0). This corresponds to about 1016 (95% CI: 637–1355) male lung cancer cases/year in Lombardy.
Conclusions These findings support the substantial role of selected occupational carcinogens on lung cancer burden, even at low exposures, in a general population.
lung neoplasms; case–control study; carcinogens; occupational health
Short‐term exposures to fine (<2.5 μm aerodynamic diameter) ambient particulate‐matter (PM) have been related with increased blood pressure (BP) in controlled‐human exposure and community‐based studies. However, whether coarse (2.5 to 10 μm) PM exposure increases BP is uncertain. Recent observational studies have linked PM exposures with blood DNA hypomethylation, an epigenetic alteration that activates inflammatory and vascular responses. No experimental evidence is available to confirm those observational data and demonstrate the relations between PM, hypomethylation, and BP.
Methods and Results
We conducted a cross‐over trial of controlled‐human exposure to concentrated ambient particles (CAPs). Fifteen healthy adult participants were exposed for 130 minutes to fine CAPs, coarse CAPs, or HEPA‐filtered medical air (control) in randomized order with ≥2‐week washout. Repetitive‐element (Alu, long interspersed nuclear element‐1 [LINE‐1]) and candidate‐gene (TLR4, IL‐12, IL‐6, iNOS) blood methylation, systolic and diastolic BP were measured pre‐ and postexposure. After adjustment for multiple comparisons, fine CAPs exposure lowered Alu methylation (β‐standardized=−0.74, adjusted‐P=0.03); coarse CAPs exposure lowered TLR4 methylation (β‐standardized=−0.27, adjusted‐P=0.04). Both fine and coarse CAPs determined significantly increased systolic BP (β=2.53 mm Hg, P=0.001; β=1.56 mm Hg, P=0.03, respectively) and nonsignificantly increased diastolic BP (β=0.98 mm Hg, P=0.12; β=0.82 mm Hg, P=0.11, respectively). Decreased Alu and TLR4 methylation was associated with higher postexposure DBP (β‐standardized=0.41, P=0.04; and β‐standardized=0.84, P=0.02; respectively). Decreased TLR4 methylation was associated with higher postexposure SBP (β‐standardized=1.45, P=0.01).
Our findings provide novel evidence of effects of coarse PM on BP and confirm effects of fine PM. Our results provide the first experimental evidence of PM‐induced DNA hypomethylation and its correlation to BP.
air pollution; blood pressure; DNA methylation; epigenetics; mediation
Mitochondria have small mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) molecules independent from the nuclear DNA, a separate epigenetic machinery that generates mtDNA methylation, and are primary sources of oxidative-stress generation in response to exogenous environments. However, no study has yet investigated whether mitochondrial DNA methylation is sensitive to pro-oxidant environmental exposures.
We sampled 40 male participants (20 high-, 20 low-exposure) from each of three studies on airborne pollutants, including investigations of steel workers exposed to metal-rich particulate matter (measured as PM1) in Brescia, Italy (Study 1); gas-station attendants exposed to air benzene in Milan, Italy (Study 2); and truck drivers exposed to traffic-derived Elemental Carbon (EC) in Beijing, China (Study 3). We have measured DNA methylation from buffy coats of the participants. We measured methylation by bisulfite-Pyrosequencing in three mtDNA regions, i.e., the transfer RNA phenylalanine (MT-TF), 12S ribosomal RNA (MT-RNR1) gene and “D-loop” control region. All analyses were adjusted for age and smoking.
In Study 1, participants with high metal-rich PM1 exposure showed higher MT-TF and MT-RNR1 methylation than low-exposed controls (difference = 1.41, P = 0.002); MT-TF and MT-RNR1 methylation was significantly associated with PM1 exposure (beta = 1.35, P = 0.025); and MT-RNR1 methylation was positively correlated with mtDNA copy number (r = 0.36; P = 0.02). D-loop methylation was not associated with PM1 exposure. We found no effects on mtDNA methylation from air benzene (Study 2) and traffic-derived EC exposure (Study 3).
Mitochondrial MT-TF and MT-RNR1 DNA methylation was associated with metal-rich PM1 exposure and mtDNA copy number. Our results suggest that locus-specific mtDNA methylation is correlated to selected exposures and mtDNA damage. Larger studies are needed to validate our observations.
Air pollutants; Mitochondria; DNA methylation
Mitochondria are both a sensitive target and a primary source of oxidative stress, a key pathway of air particulate matter (PM)-associated diseases. Mitochondrial DNA copy number (MtDNAcn) is a marker of mitochondrial damage and malfunctioning. We evaluated whether ambient PM exposure affects MtDNAcn in a highly-exposed population in Beijing, China.
The Beijing Truck Driver Air Pollution Study was conducted shortly before the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games (June 15-July 27, 2008) and included 60 truck drivers and 60 office workers. Personal PM2.5 and elemental carbon (EC, a tracer of traffic particles) were measured during work hours using portable monitors. Post-work blood samples were obtained on two different days. Ambient PM10 was averaged from 27 monitoring stations in Beijing. Blood MtDNAcn was determined by real-time PCR and examined in association with particle levels using mixed-effect models.
In all participants combined, MtDNAcn was negatively associated with personal EC level measured during work hours (β=−0.059, 95% CI: -0.011; -0.0006, p=0.03); and 5-day (β=−0.017, 95% CI: -0.029;-0.005, p=0.01) and 8-day average ambient PM10 (β=−0.008, 95% CI: -0.043; -0.008, p=0.004) after adjusting for possible confounding factors, including study groups. MtDNAcn was also negatively associated among office workers with EC (β=−0.012, 95% CI: -0.022;-0.002, p=0.02) and 8-day average ambient PM10 (β=−0.030, 95% CI: -0.051;-0.008, p=0.007).
We observed decreased blood MtDNAcn in association with increased exposure to EC during work hours and recent ambient PM10 exposure. Our results suggest that MtDNAcn may be influenced by particle exposures. Further studies are required to determine the roles of MtDNAcn in the etiology of particle-related diseases.
China; Mitochondrial DNA; Mitochondrial DNA copy number; Particulate matter; Traffic pollution
Background Estimates of global DNA methylation from repetitive DNA elements, such as Alu and LINE-1, have been increasingly used in epidemiological investigations because of their relative low-cost, high-throughput and quantitative results. Nevertheless, determinants of these methylation measures in healthy individuals are still largely unknown. The aim of this study was to examine whether age, gender, smoking habits, alcohol drinking and body mass index (BMI) are associated with Alu or LINE-1 methylation levels in blood leucocyte DNA of healthy individuals.
Methods Individual data from five studies including a total of 1465 healthy subjects were combined. DNA methylation was quantified by PCR-pyrosequencing.
Results Age [β = −0.011% of 5-methyl-cytosine (%5mC)/year, 95% confidence interval (CI) −0.020 to −0.001%5mC/year] and alcohol drinking (β = −0.214, 95% CI −0.415 to −0.013) were inversely associated with Alu methylation. Compared with females, males had lower Alu methylation (β = −0.385, 95% CI −0.665 to −0.104) and higher LINE-1 methylation (β = 0.796, 95% CI 0.261 to 1.330). No associations were found with smoking or BMI. Percent neutrophils and lymphocytes in blood counts exhibited a positive (β = 0.036, 95% CI 0.010 to 0.061) and negative (β = −0.038, 95% CI −0.065 to −0.012) association with LINE-1 methylation, respectively.
Conclusions Global methylation measures in blood DNA vary in relation with certain host and lifestyle characteristics, including age, gender, alcohol drinking and white blood cell counts. These findings need to be considered in designing epidemiological investigations aimed at identifying associations between DNA methylation and health outcomes.
Blood; DNA methylation; epigenetics; meta-analysis; repetitive elements
Chronic occupational exposure to benzene is associated with an increased risk of hematological malignancies such as acute myeloid leukemia (AML), but the underlying mechanisms are still unclear. The main objective of this study was to investigate the association between benzene exposure and DNA methylation, both in repeated elements and candidate genes, in a population of 158 Bulgarian petrochemical workers and 50 unexposed office workers. Exposure assessment included personal monitoring of airborne benzene at work and urinary biomarkers of benzene metabolism (S-phenylmercapturic acid [SPMA] and trans,trans-muconic acid [t,t-MA]) at the end of the work-shift. The median levels of airborne benzene, SPMA and t,t-MA in workers were 0.46 ppm, 15.5 µg/L and 711 µg/L respectively, and exposure levels were significantly lower in the controls. Repeated-element DNA methylation was measured in Alu and LINE-1, and gene-specific methylation in MAGE and p15. DNA methylation levels were not significantly different between exposed workers and controls (P>0.05). Both ordinary least squares (OLS) and beta-regression models were used to estimate benzene-methylation associations. Beta-regression showed better model specification, as reflected in improved coefficient of determination (pseudo R2) and Akaike’s information criterion (AIC). In beta-regression, we found statistically significant reductions in LINE-1 (−0.15%, P<0.01) and p15 (−0.096%, P<0.01) mean methylation levels with each interquartile range (IQR) increase in SPMA. This study showed statistically significant but weak associations of LINE-1 and p15 hypomethylation with SPMA in Bulgarian petrochemical workers. We showed that beta-regression is more appropriate than OLS regression for fitting methylation data.
DNA methylation is increasingly proposed as a mechanism for underlying asthma-related inflammation. However, epigenetic studies are constrained by uncertainties on whether samples that can be easily collected in human individuals can provide informative results.
Two nasal cell DNA samples were collected on different days by nasal brushings from 35 asthmatic children aged between 8 and 11 years old. We correlated DNA methylation of IL-6, iNOS, Alu and LINE-1 with fractional exhaled nitric oxide, forced expiratory volume in 1 s and wheezing.
Fractional exhaled nitric oxide increased in association with lower promoter methylation of both IL-6 (+29.0%; p = 0.004) and iNOS (+41.0%; p = 0.002). Lower IL-6 methylation was nonsignificantly associated with wheezing during the week of the study (odds ratio = 2.3; p = 0.063).
Our findings support the use of nasal cell DNA for human epigenetic studies of asthma.
airway obstruction; asthma; children; DNA methylation; epigenetics; inflammation
Affordable early screening in subjects with high risk of lung cancer has great potential to improve survival from this deadly disease. We measured gene expression from lung tissue and peripheral whole blood (PWB) from adenocarcinoma cases and controls to identify dysregulated lung cancer genes that could be tested in blood to improve identification of at-risk patients in the future. Genome-wide mRNA expression analysis was conducted in 153 subjects (73 adenocarcinoma cases, 80 controls) from the Environment And Genetics in Lung cancer Etiology (EAGLE) study using PWB and paired snap-frozen tumor and non-involved lung tissue samples. Analyses were conducted using unpaired t-tests, linear mixed effects and ANOVA models. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) was computed to assess the predictive accuracy of the identified biomarkers. We identified 50 dysregulated genes in stage I adenocarcinoma versus control PWB samples (False Discovery Rate ≤0.1, fold change ≥1.5 or ≤0.66). Among them, eight (TGFBR3, RUNX3, TRGC2, TRGV9, TARP, ACP1, VCAN, and TSTA3) differentiated paired tumor versus non-involved lung tissue samples in stage I cases, suggesting a similar pattern of lung cancer-related changes in PWB and lung tissue. These results were confirmed in two independent gene expression analyses in a blood-based case-control study (n=212) and a tumor-non tumor paired tissue study (n=54). The eight genes discriminated patients with lung cancer from healthy controls with high accuracy (AUC=0.81, 95% CI=0.74–0.87). Our finding suggests the use of gene expression from PWB for the identification of early detection markers of lung cancer in the future.
microarray gene expression; peripheral blood; lung cancer; stage I
Alcohol abuse leads to earlier onset of aging-related diseases, including cancer at multiple sites. Shorter telomere length (TL) in peripheral blood leucocytes (PBLs), a marker of biological aging, has been associated with alcohol-related cancer risks. Whether alcohol abusers exhibit accelerated biological aging, as reflected in PBL-TL, has never been examined.
To investigated the effect of alcohol abuse on PBL-TL and its interaction with alcohol metabolic genotypes, we examined 200 drunk-driving traffic offenders diagnosed as alcohol abusers as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM-IV-TR] and enrolled in a probation program, and 257 social drinkers (controls). We assessed alcohol intake using self-reported drink-units/day and conventional alcohol abuse biomarkers (serum γ-glutamyltrasferase [GGT] and mean corpuscular volume of erythrocytes [MCV]). We used multivariable models to compute TL geometric means (GM) adjusted for age, smoking, BMI, diet, job at elevated risk of accident, genotoxic exposures.
TL was nearly halved in alcohol abusers compared to controls (GMs 0.42 vs. 0.87 relative T/S ratio; P<0.0001) and decreased in relation with increasing drink-units/day (P-trend=0.003). Individuals drinking >4 drink-units/day had substantially shorter TL than those drinking 4 drink-units/day (GMs 0.48 vs. 0.61 T/S, P=0.002). Carriers of the common ADH1B*1/*1 (rs1229984) genotype were more likely to be abusers (P=0.008), reported higher drink-units/day (P=0.0003), and exhibited shorter TL (P<0.0001). The rs698 ADH1C and rs671 ALDH2 polymorphisms were not associated with TL.
The decrease in PBL-TL modulated by the alcohol metabolic genotype ADH1B*1/*1 may represent a novel mechanism potentially related to alcohol carcinogenesis in alcohol abusers.
Mood disorders may affect lung cancer risk. We evaluated this hypothesis in two large studies.
We examined 1,939 lung cancer cases and 2,102 controls from the Environment And Genetics in Lung cancer Etiology (EAGLE) case-control study conducted in Italy (2002–2005), and 82,945 inpatients with a lung cancer diagnosis and 3,586,299 person-years without a lung cancer diagnosis in the U.S. Veterans Affairs Inpatient Cohort (VA study), composed of veterans with a VA hospital admission (1969–1996). In EAGLE, we calculated odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI), with extensive adjustment for tobacco smoking and multiple lifestyle factors. In the VA study, we estimated lung cancer relative risks (RRs) and 95% CIs with time-dependent Poisson regression, adjusting for attained age, calendar year, hospital visits, time within the study, and related previous medical diagnoses. In EAGLE, we found decreased lung cancer risk in subjects with a personal history of mood disorders (OR: 0.59, 95% CI: 0.44–0.79, based on 121 lung cancer incident cases and 192 controls) and family history of mood disorders (OR: 0.62, 95% CI: 0.50–0.77, based on 223 lung cancer cases and 345 controls). The VA study analyses yielded similar results (RR: 0.74, 95% CI: 0.71–0.77, based on 2,304 incident lung cancer cases and 177,267 non-cancer person-years) in men with discharge diagnoses for mood disorders. History of mood disorders was associated with nicotine dependence, alcohol and substance use and psychometric scales of depressive and anxiety symptoms in controls for these studies.
The consistent finding of a relationship between mood disorders and lung cancer risk across two large studies calls for further research into the complex interplay of risk factors associated with these two widespread and debilitating diseases. Although we adjusted for smoking effects in EAGLE, residual confounding of the results by smoking cannot be ruled out.
While lung cancer is largely caused by tobacco smoking, inherited genetic factors play a role in its etiology. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in Europeans have robustly demonstrated only three polymorphic variations influencing lung cancer risk. Tumor heterogeneity may have hampered the detection of association signal when all lung cancer subtypes were analyzed together. In a GWAS of 5,355 European smoking lung cancer cases and 4,344 smoking controls, we conducted a pathway-based analysis in lung cancer histologic subtypes with 19,082 SNPs mapping to 917 genes in the HuGE-defined “inflammation” pathway. We identified a susceptibility locus for squamous cell lung carcinoma (SQ) at 12p13.33 (RAD52, rs6489769), and replicated the association in three independent samples totaling 3,359 SQ cases and 9,100 controls (odds ratio=1.20, Pcombined=2.3×10−8).
The combination of pathway-based approaches and information on disease specific subtypes can improve the identification of cancer susceptibility loci in heterogeneous diseases.
Lung cancer; histology; squamous cell carcinoma; pathway analysis; RAD52
DNA methylation is an epigenetic mechanism that has been increasingly investigated in observational human studies, particularly on blood leukocyte DNA. Characterizing the degree and determinants of DNA methylation stability can provide critical information for the design and conduction of human epigenetic studies.
We measured DNA methylation in 12 gene-promoter regions (APC, p16, p53, RASSF1A, CDH13, eNOS, ET-1, IFNγ, IL-6, TNFα, iNOS, and hTERT) and 2 of non-long terminal repeat elements, i.e., L1 and Alu in blood samples obtained from 63 healthy individuals at baseline (Day 1) and after three days (Day 4). DNA methylation was measured by bisulfite-PCR-Pyrosequencing. We calculated intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) to measure the within-individual stability of DNA methylation between Day 1 and 4, subtracted of pyrosequencing error and adjusted for multiple covariates.
Methylation markers showed different temporal behaviors ranging from high (IL-6, ICC = 0.89) to low stability (APC, ICC = 0.08) between Day 1 and 4. Multiple sequence and marker characteristics were associated with the degree of variation. Density of CpG dinucleotides nearby the sequence analyzed (measured as CpG(o/e) or G+C content within ±200bp) was positively associated with DNA methylation stability. The 3′ proximity to repeat elements and range of DNA methylation on Day 1 were also positively associated with methylation stability. An inverted U-shaped correlation was observed between mean DNA methylation on Day 1 and stability.
The degree of short-term DNA methylation stability is marker-dependent and associated with sequence characteristics and methylation levels.
Background: Benzene is an established leukemogen at high exposure levels. Although low-level benzene exposure is widespread and may induce oxidative damage, no mechanistic biomarkers are available to detect biological dysfunction at low doses.
Objectives: Our goals were to determine in a large multicenter cross-sectional study whether low-level benzene is associated with increased blood mitochondrial DNA copy number (mtDNAcn, a biological oxidative response to mitochondrial DNA damage and dysfunction) and to explore potential links between mtDNAcn and leukemia-related epigenetic markers.
Methods: We measured blood relative mtDNAcn by real-time polymerase chain reaction in 341 individuals selected from various occupational groups with low-level benzene exposures (> 100 times lower than the Occupational Safety and Health Administration/European Union standards) and 178 referents from three Italian cities (Genoa, Milan, Cagliari).
Results: In each city, benzene-exposed participants showed higher mtDNAcn than referents: mtDNAcn was 0.90 relative units in Genoa bus drivers and 0.75 in referents (p = 0.019); 0.90 in Milan gas station attendants, 1.10 in police officers, and 0.75 in referents (p-trend = 0.008); 1.63 in Cagliari petrochemical plant workers, 1.25 in referents close to the plant, and 0.90 in referents farther from the plant (p-trend = 0.046). Using covariate-adjusted regression models, we estimated that an interquartile range increase in personal airborne benzene was associated with percent increases in mtDNAcn equal to 10.5% in Genoa (p = 0.014), 8.2% (p = 0.008) in Milan, 7.5% in Cagliari (p = 0.22), and 10.3% in all cities combined (p < 0.001). Using methylation data available for the Milan participants, we found that mtDNAcn was associated with LINE-1 hypomethylation (–2.41%; p = 0.007) and p15 hypermethylation (+15.95%, p = 0.008).
Conclusions: Blood MtDNAcn was increased in persons exposed to low benzene levels, potentially reflecting mitochondrial DNA damage and dysfunction.
benzene; biomarkers; low exposures; methylation; mitochondrial DNA copy number
Global DNA hypomethylation affecting repeat sequences has been reported in different cancer types. Herein, we investigated the methylation levels of repetitive DNA elements in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), their correlation with the major cytogenetic and molecular features, and clinical relevance in predicting therapy-free survival (TFS). A quantitative bisulfite-PCR Pyrosequencing method was used to evaluate methylation of Alu, long interspersed nuclear elements-1 (LINE-1) and satellite-α (SAT-α) sequences in 77 untreated early-stage (Binet A) CLL patients. Peripheral B-cells from 7 healthy donors were used as controls. Methylation levels (median %5mC) were lower in B-CLLs compared with controls (21.4 vs. 25.9; 66.8 vs. 85.7; 84.0, vs. 88.2 for Alu, LINE-1 and SAT-α, respectively) (p < 0.001). Among CLL patients, a significant association was observed with 17p13.1 deletion (16.8 vs. 22.4; 51.2 vs. 68.5; 52.6 vs. 85.0, for Alu, LINE-1 and SAT-α) but not with other major genetic lesions, IgVH mutation status, CD38 or ZAP-70 expression. Follow-up analyses showed that lower SAT-α methylation levels appeared to be an independent prognostic marker significantly associated with shorter TFS. Our study extended previous limited evidences in methylation of repetitive sequences in CLL suggesting an important biological and clinical relevance in the disease.
Alu; DNA methyltransferases; LINE-1; SAT-α; chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Particulate Matter (PM) exposure is critical in Beijing due to high population density and rapid increase in vehicular traffic. PM effects on blood pressure (BP) have been investigated as a mechanism mediating cardiovascular risks, but results are still inconsistent. The purpose of our study is to determine the effects of ambient and personal PM exposure on BP.
Before the 2008 Olympic Games (June 15-July 27), we examined 60 truck drivers and 60 office workers on two days, 1-2 weeks apart (n = 240). We obtained standardized measures of post-work BP. Exposure assessment included personal PM2.5 and Elemental Carbon (EC, a tracer of traffic particles) measured using portable monitors during work hours; and ambient PM10 averaged over 1-8 days pre-examination. We examined associations of exposures (exposure group, personal PM2.5/EC, ambient PM10) with BP controlling for multiple covariates.
Mean personal PM2.5 was 94.6 μg/m3 (SD = 64.9) in office workers and 126.8 (SD = 68.8) in truck drivers (p-value < 0.001). In all participants combined, a 10 μg/m3 increase in 8-day ambient PM10 was associated with BP increments of 0.98 (95%CI 0.34; 1.61; p-value = 0.003), 0.71 (95%CI 0.18; 1.24; p-value = 0.01), and 0.81 (95%CI 0.31; 1.30; p-value = 0.002) mmHg for systolic, diastolic, and mean BP, respectively. BP was not significantly different between the two groups (p-value > 0.14). Personal PM2.5 and EC during work hours were not associated with increased BP.
Our results indicate delayed effects of ambient PM10 on BP. Lack of associations with exposure groups and personal PM2.5/EC indicates that PM effects are related to background levels of pollution in Beijing, and not specifically to work-related exposure.
Particulate Matter; Personal Monitoring; Blood Pressure; Traffic Pollution; China
Exposure to ambient air particles matter (PM) has been associated with increased risk of lung cancer. Aberrant tumor suppressor gene promoter methylation has emerged as a promising biomarker for cancers, including lung cancer. Whether exposure to PM is associated with peripheral blood leukocyte (PBL) DNA methylation in tumor suppressor genes has not been evaluated. In 63 male healthy steel workers with well-characterized exposure to metal-rich particles nearby Brescia, Italy, we evaluated whether exposure to PM and metal components was associated with PBL DNA methylation in 4 tumor suppressor genes (i.e., APC, p16, p53 and RASSF1A). Blood samples were obtained on the 1st (baseline) and 4th day (post-exposure) of the same work week and DNA methylation was measured using pyrosequencing. A linear mixed model was used to examine the correlations of the exposure with promoter methylation levels. Mean promoter DNA methylation levels of APC or p16 were significantly higher in post-exposure samples compared to that in baseline samples (p-values = 0.005 for APC, and p-value = 0.006 for p16). By contrast, the mean levels of p53 or RASSF1A promoter methylation was decreased in post-exposure samples compared to that in baseline samples (p-value = 0.015 for p53; and p-value < 0.001 for RASSF1A). In post-exposure samples, APC methylation was positively associated with PM10 (β = 0.27, 95% CI: 0.13-0.40), and PM1 (β = 0.23, 95% CI: 0.09-0.38). In summary, ambient PM exposure was associated with PBL DNA methylation levels of tumor suppressor genes of APC, p16, p53 and RASSF1A, suggesting that such methylation alterations may reflect processes related to PM-induced lung carcinogenesis.
The molecular drivers that determine histology in lung cancer are largely unknown. We investigated whether microRNA (miR) expression profiles can differentiate histological subtypes and predict survival for non-small cell lung cancer.
We analyzed miR expression in 165 adenocarcinoma (AD) and 125 squamous cell carcinoma (SQ) tissue samples from the Environmental And Genetics in Lung cancer Etiology (EAGLE) study using a custom oligo array with 440 human mature antisense miRs. We compared miR expression profiles using t-tests and F-tests and accounted for multiple testing using global permutation tests. We assessed the association of miR expression with tobacco smoking using Spearman correlation coefficients and linear regression models, and with clinical outcome using log-rank tests, Cox proportional hazards and survival risk prediction models, accounting for demographic and tumor characteristics.
MiR expression profiles strongly differed between AD and SQ (global p<0.0001), particularly in the early stages, and included miRs located on chromosome loci most often altered in lung cancer (e.g., 3p21-22). Most miRs, including all members of the let-7 family, were down-regulated in SQ. Major findings were confirmed by QRT-PCR in EAGLE samples and in an independent set of lung cancer cases. In SQ, low expression of miRs down-regulated in the histology comparison was associated with 1.2 to 3.6-fold increased mortality risk. A 5-miR signature significantly predicted survival for SQ.
We identified a miR expression profile that strongly differentiated AD from SQ and had prognostic implications. These findings may lead to histology-based therapeutic approaches.
Background: Epidemiology investigations have linked exposure to ambient and occupational air particulate matter (PM) with increased risk of lung cancer. PM contains carcinogenic and toxic metals, including arsenic and nickel, which have been shown in in vitro studies to induce histone modifications that activate gene expression by inducing open-chromatin states. Whether inhalation of metal components of PM induces histone modifications in human subjects is undetermined.
Objectives: We investigated whether the metal components of PM determined activating histone modifications in 63 steel workers with well-characterized exposure to metal-rich PM.
Methods: We determined histone 3 lysine 4 dimethylation (H3K4me2) and histone 3 lysine 9 acetylation (H3K9ac) on histones from blood leukocytes. Exposure to inhalable metal components (aluminum, manganese, nickel, zinc, arsenic, lead, iron) and to total PM was estimated for each study subject.
Results: Both H3K4me2 and H3K9ac increased in association with years of employment in the plant (p-trend = 0.04 and 0.006, respectively). H3K4me2 increased in association with air levels of nickel [β = 0.16; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.03–0.3], arsenic (β = 0.16; 95% CI, 0.02–0.3), and iron (β = 0.14; 95% CI, 0.01–0.26). H3K9ac showed nonsignificant positive associations with air levels of nickel (β = 0.24; 95% CI, –0.02 to 0.51), arsenic (β = 0.21; 95% CI, –0.06 to 0.48), and iron (β = 0.22; 95% CI, –0.03 to 0.47). Cumulative exposures to nickel and arsenic, defined as the product of years of employment by metal air levels, were positively correlated with both H3K4me2 (nickel: β = 0.16; 95% CI, 0.01–0.3; arsenic: β = 0.16; 95% CI, 0.03–0.29) and H3K9ac (nickel: β = 0.27; 95% CI, 0.01–0.54; arsenic: β = 0.28; 95% CI, 0.04–0.51).
Conclusions: Our results indicate histone modifications as a novel epigenetic mechanism induced in human subjects by long-term exposure to inhalable nickel and arsenic.
environmental carcinogens; epigenetics; histone modifications; metals; particulate matter
Particulate matter (PM) exposure has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, possibly resulting from hypercoagulability and thrombosis. Lung and systemic inflammation from PM inhalation may activate blood coagulation, but mechanisms for PM-related hypercoagulability are still largely unknown.
To identify coagulation mechanisms activated by PM in a population with well-characterized exposure.
We measured prothrombin time [PT], activated-partial-thromboplastin time [aPTT], Endogenous Thrombin Potentials [ETP] with/without exogenous triggers and with/without soluble thrombomodulin, tissue-plasminogen activator antigen [t-PA], D-dimer, and C-reactive protein [CRP] in 37 workers in a steel-production plant with well-characterized exposure to PM with aerodynamic diameter <1μm (PM1) and coarse PM (PM10-PM1). Blood samples were collected from each subject on the first (baseline) and last (post-exposure) day of a four-day workweek. We analysed differences between baseline and post-exposure levels using paired Student’s t-test. We fitted multivariate mixed-regression models to estimate the associations of inter-quartile range PM1 and coarse PM exposure with parameter levels.
None of the parameters showed any significant changes in post-exposure samples, compared to baseline. However, exposure levels were associated with shorter PT (β[PM1]=−0.33 sec, p=0.08; β[PMcoarse]=−0.33 sec, p=0.01), and higher ETP without exogenous triggers and with thrombomodulin (β[PM1]=+99 nM*min, p=0.02; β[PMcoarse]=+66 nM*min, p=0.05), t-PA (β[PM1]=+0.72 ng/mL, p=0.01; β[PMcoarse]=+0.88 ng/mL, p=0.04), and CRP (β[PM1]=+0.59 mg/L, p=0.03; β[PMcoarse]=+0.48 mg/L, p=0.01).
PM exposure did not show any short-term effect within the week of the study. The association of PM exposure with PT, ETP, CRP provides some evidence of long-term effects on inflammation and coagulation.
Coagulation; Endogenous Thrombin Potential; Environmental Risk Factors; Occupational Health; Particulate Matter
Particulate air pollution has been linked to heart disease and stroke, possibly resulting from enhanced coagulation and arterial thrombosis. Whether particulate air pollution exposure is related to venous thrombosis is unknown.
We examined the association of exposure to particulate matter of less than 10 µm in aerodynamic diameter (PM10) with DVT risk in 870 patients and 1210 controls from Lombardia Region, Italy examined between 1995–2005. We estimated exposure to particulate matter of less than 10 µm in aerodynamic diameter (PM10) in the year before DVT diagnosis (cases) or examination (controls) through area-specific average levels obtained from ambient monitors.
Higher average PM10 level in the year before the examination was associated with shortened Prothrombin Time (PT) in DVT cases (beta=−0.12; 95% CI −0.23, 0.00; p=0.04) and controls (beta=-0.06; 95% CI −0.11, 0.00, p=0.04). Each PM10 increase of 10 µg/m3 was associated with a 70% increase in DVT risk (OR=1.70; 95% CI, 1.30–2.23; p=0.0001) in models adjusting for clinical and environmental covariates. The exposure-response relationship was approximately linear over the observed PM10 range. The association between PM10 and DVT was weaker in women (OR=1.40; 95% CI, 1.02–1.92; p=0.02 for the interaction between PM10 and sex), particularly in those using oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy (OR=0.97; 95% CI 0.58–1.61; p=0.048 for the interaction between PM10 and hormone use).
Long-term exposure to particulate air pollution is associated with altered coagulation function and DVT risk. Other risk factors for DVT may modulate the effect of particulate air pollution.
Shortened leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is a marker of cardiovascular risk that has been recently associated with long-term exposure to ambient particulate matter (PM). However, LTL is increased during acute inflammation and allows for rapid proliferation of inflammatory cells. Whether short-term exposure to proinflammatory exposures such as PM increases LTL has never been evaluated.
We investigated the effects of acute exposure to metal-rich PM on blood LTL, as well as molecular mechanisms contributing to LTL regulation in a group of steel workers with high PM exposure.
We measured LTL, as well as mRNA expression and promoter DNA methylation of the telomerase catalytic enzyme gene [human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT)] in blood samples obtained from 63 steel workers on the first day of a workweek (baseline) and after 3 days of work (postexposure).
LTL was significantly increased in postexposure (mean ± SD, 1.43 ± 0.51) compared with baseline samples (1.23 ± 0.28, p-value < 0.001). Postexposure LTL was positively associated with PM10 (β = 0.30, p-value = 0.002 for 90th vs. 10th percentile exposure) and PM1 (β = 0.29, p-value = 0.042) exposure levels in regression models adjusting for multiple covariates. hTERT expression was lower in postexposure samples (1.31 ± 0.75) than at baseline (1.68 ± 0.86, p-value < 0.001), but the decrease in hTERT expression did not show a dose–response relationship with PM. We found no exposure-related differences in the methylation of any of the CpG sites investigated in the hTERT promoter.
Short-term exposure to PM caused a rapid increase in blood LTL. The LTL increase did not appear to be mediated by PM-related changes in hTERT expression and methylation.
epigenetics; particulate matter; telomerase; telomere length