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1.  Predicting DNA methylation level across human tissues 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(6):3515-3528.
Differences in methylation across tissues are critical to cell differentiation and are key to understanding the role of epigenetics in complex diseases. In this investigation, we found that locus-specific methylation differences between tissues are highly consistent across individuals. We developed a novel statistical model to predict locus-specific methylation in target tissue based on methylation in surrogate tissue. The method was evaluated in publicly available data and in two studies using the latest IlluminaBeadChips: a childhood asthma study with methylation measured in both peripheral blood leukocytes (PBL) and lymphoblastoid cell lines; and a study of postoperative atrial fibrillation with methylation in PBL, atrium and artery. We found that our method can greatly improve accuracy of cross-tissue prediction at CpG sites that are variable in the target tissue [R2 increases from 0.38 (original R2 between tissues) to 0.89 for PBL-to-artery prediction; from 0.39 to 0.95 for PBL-to-atrium; and from 0.81 to 0.98 for lymphoblastoid cell line-to-PBL based on cross-validation, and confirmed using cross-study prediction]. An extended model with multiple CpGs further improved performance. Our results suggest that large-scale epidemiology studies using easy-to-access surrogate tissues (e.g. blood) could be recalibrated to improve understanding of epigenetics in hard-to-access tissues (e.g. atrium) and might enable non-invasive disease screening using epigenetic profiles.
PMCID: PMC3973306  PMID: 24445802
4.  A genome-wide association study of atopic dermatitis identifies loci with overlapping effects on asthma and psoriasis 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(23):4841-4856.
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is the most common dermatological disease of childhood. Many children with AD have asthma and AD shares regions of genetic linkage with psoriasis, another chronic inflammatory skin disease. We present here a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of childhood-onset AD in 1563 European cases with known asthma status and 4054 European controls. Using Illumina genotyping followed by imputation, we generated 268 034 consensus genotypes and in excess of 2 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for analysis. Association signals were assessed for replication in a second panel of 2286 European cases and 3160 European controls. Four loci achieved genome-wide significance for AD and replicated consistently across all cohorts. These included the epidermal differentiation complex (EDC) on chromosome 1, the genomic region proximal to LRRC32 on chromosome 11, the RAD50/IL13 locus on chromosome 5 and the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on chromosome 6; reflecting action of classical HLA alleles. We observed variation in the contribution towards co-morbid asthma for these regions of association. We further explored the genetic relationship between AD, asthma and psoriasis by examining previously identified susceptibility SNPs for these diseases. We found considerable overlap between AD and psoriasis together with variable coincidence between allergic rhinitis (AR) and asthma. Our results indicate that the pathogenesis of AD incorporates immune and epidermal barrier defects with combinations of specific and overlapping effects at individual loci.
PMCID: PMC3820131  PMID: 23886662

Results 1-4 (4)