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1.  Dissecting direct and indirect genetic effects on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) susceptibility 
Human genetics  2013;132(4):431-441.
Cigarette smoking is the major environmental risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Genome-wide association studies have provided compelling associations for three loci with COPD. In this study, we aimed to estimate direct, i.e., independent from smoking, and indirect effects of those loci on COPD development using mediation analysis. We included a total of 3,424 COPD cases and 1,872 unaffected controls with data on two smoking-related phenotypes: lifetime average smoking intensity and cumulative exposure to tobacco smoke (pack years). Our analysis revealed that effects of two linked variants (rs1051730 and rs8034191) in the AGPHD1/CHRNA3 cluster on COPD development are significantly, yet not entirely, mediated by the smoking-related phenotypes. Approximately 30 % of the total effect of variants in the AGPHD1/CHRNA3 cluster on COPD development was mediated by pack years. Simultaneous analysis of modestly (r2 = 0.21) linked markers in CHRNA3 and IREB2 revealed that an even larger (~42 %) proportion of the total effect of the CHRNA3 locus on COPD was mediated by pack years after adjustment for an IREB2 single nucleotide polymorphism. This study confirms the existence of direct effects of the AGPHD1/CHRNA3, IREB2, FAM13A and HHIP loci on COPD development. While the association of the AGPHD1/CHRNA3 locus with COPD is significantly mediated by smoking-related phenotypes, IREB2 appears to affect COPD independently of smoking.
PMCID: PMC3600068  PMID: 23299987
2.  Air Pollution and Homocysteine: More Evidence that Oxidative Stress-related Genes Modify Effects of Particulate Air Pollution 
Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.)  2010;21(2):198-206.
Ambient particles are associated with cardiovascular events, and recently with total plasma homocysteine. High total plasma homocysteine is a risk for human health. However, the biological mechanisms are not fully understood. One of putative pathways is through oxidative stress. We aimed to examine whether associations of PM2.5 and black carbon with homocysteine were modified by genotypes including HFE H63D, C282Y, CAT (rs480575, rs1001179, rs2284367 and rs2300181), NQO1 (rs1800566), GSTP1 I105V, GSTM1, GSTT1(deletion vs non-deletion) and HMOX-1 (any short vs both long). We attempted to replicate identified genes in an analysis of heart rate variability, and in other outcomes reported in the literature.
Study subjects were 1000 white non-Hispanic men in the Boston area, participating in a cohort study of aging. PM2.5, black carbon, total plasma homocysteine and other covariates were measured at several points in time between 1995 and 2006. We fit mixed models to examine effect modification of genes on associations of pollution with total plasma homocysteine.
Interquartile range (IQR) increases in PM2.5 and black carbon (7-day moving averages) were associated with 1.5% (95% confidence interval = 0.2% to 2.8%) and 2.2% (0.6% to 3.9%) increases in total plasma homocysteine, respectively. GSTT1 and HFE C282Y modified effects of black carbon on total plasma homocysteine, and HFE C282Y and CAT (rs2300181) modified effects of PM2.5 on homocysteine. Several genotypes marginally modified effects of PM2.5 and black carbon on various endpoints. All genes with significant interactions with particulate air pollution had modest main effects on total plasma homocysteine.
Effects of PM2.5 and black carbon on various endpoints appeared to be mediated by genes related to oxidative stress pathways.
PMCID: PMC3939788  PMID: 20110814
3.  Cumulative lead exposure in community-dwelling adults and fine motor function: comparing standard and novel tasks in the VA Normative Aging Study 
Neurotoxicology  2013;35:154-161.
Background and Aims
Lead exposure in children and occupationally-exposed adults has been associated with reduced visuomotor and fine motor function. However, associations in environmentally-exposed adults remain relatively unexplored. To address this, we examined the association between cumulative lead exposure—as measured by lead in bone—and performance on the Grooved Pegboard (GP) manual dexterity task, as well as on handwriting tasks using a novel assessment approach, among men in the VA Normative Aging Study (NAS).
GP testing was done with 362 NAS participants, and handwriting assessment with 328, who also had tibia and patella lead measurements made with K-X-Ray Fluorescence (KXRF). GP scores were time (sec) to complete the task with the dominant hand. The handwriting assessment approach assessed the production of signature and cursive lowercase l and m letter samples. Signature and lm task scores reflect consistency in repeated trials. We used linear regression to estimate associations and 95% confidence intervals (CI) with adjustment for age, smoking, education, income and computer experience. A backward elimination algorithm was used in the subset with both GP and handwriting assessment to identify variables predictive of each outcome.
The mean (SD) participant age was 69.1 (7.2) years; mean patella and tibia concentrations were 25.0 (20.7) μg/g and 19.2 (14.6) μg/g, respectively. In multivariable-adjusted analyses, GP performance was associated with tibia (β per 15 μg/g bone = 4.66, 95% CI: 1.73, 7.58, p=0.002) and patella (β per 20 μg/g = 3.93, 95% CI: 1.11, 6.76, p = 0.006). In multivariable adjusted models of handwriting production, only the lm-pattern task showed a significant association with tibia (β per 15 μg/g bone = 1.27, 95% CI: 0.24, 2.29, p = 0.015), such that lm pattern production was more stable with increasing lead exposure. GP and handwriting scores were differentially sensitive to education, smoking, computer experience, financial stability, income and alcohol consumption.
Long-term cumulative environmental lead exposure was associated with deficits in GP performance, but not handwriting production. Higher lead appeared to be associated with greater consistency on the lm task. Lead sensitivity differences could suggest that lead affects neural processing speed rather than motor function per se, or could result from distinct brain areas involved in the execution of different motor tasks.
PMCID: PMC3602137  PMID: 23370289
Grooved pegboard; lead; NAS; fine motor; visuomotor
4.  Lipid and endothelial related genes, ambient particulate matter, and heart rate variability --the VA Normative Aging Study 
Many studies have shown that exposures to air pollution are associated with cardiovascular events although the mechanism remains to be clarified. To identify whether exposures to ambient particles act on autonomic function via the lipid/endothelial metabolism pathway, we evaluated whether the effects of particulate matter < 2.5 µm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5) on heart rate variability (HRV) were modified by gene polymorphisms related to those pathways.
We used HRV and gene data from the Normative Aging Study and PM2.5 from a monitor located a kilometer from the examination site. We fitted a mixed effect model to investigate the associations between PM2.5 and repeated measurements of HRV by gene polymorphisms of apolipoprotein E (APOE), lipoprotein lipase (LPL) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) adjusting for potential confounders chosen a priori.
A 10-µg/m3 increase of PM2.5 in the two days before the examination was associated with 3.8% [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.2%, 7.4%], 7.8% [95 CI: 0.4%, 15.3%] and 10.6% [95% CI: 1.8 %, 19.4%] decreases of the standard deviation of normal-to-normal intervals, low frequency and high frequency, respectively. In general, carriers of wild type APOE, LPL and VEGF genes had stronger effects of particles on HRV compared to those with hetero- or homozygous types. Variations of LPL-N291S, LPL-D9N and APOE-G113C significantly modified effects of PM2.5 on HRV.
Associations between PM2.5 and HRV were modified by gene polymorphisms of APOE, LPL and VEGF and biological metabolism remains to be identified.
PMCID: PMC3935361  PMID: 19602472
air pollution; heart rate variability; effect modification; apolipoprotein E; lipoprotein lipase; vascular endothelial growth factor
5.  Association between blood pressure and DNA methylation of retrotransposons and pro-inflammatory genes 
Background Methylation of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is an epigenetic regulator of gene expression that changes with age, but its contribution to aging-related disorders, including high blood pressure (BP), is still largely unknown. We examined the relation of BP to the methylation of retrotransposon sequences of DNA and of selected candidate genes.
Methods This investigation included 789 elderly participants in the Normative Aging Study, ranging in age from 55 to 100 years, who had longitudinal measurements of DNA methylation. In these subjects’ DNA we measured the proportion of methylated sites in retrotransposable sequences and in pro-inflammatory genes, expressed as the percent of 5-methylated cytosines (%5mC) among all cytosines. From one to four methylation measurements were made for each subject between 1999 and 2009. We fit mixed-effects models, using repeated measures of BP as the outcome and DNA methylation as the explanatory variable, adjusting for confounding variables. We also fit a Bayesian mixed-effects structural equation model to account for heterogeneity in the effects of methylation sites within each gene.
Results An increase in inter-quartile range (IQR) in the methylation of Alu elements was associated with an increase of 0.97 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure (DBP) (95% CI 0.32–1.57), but no such association was observed for long interspersed nuclear element-1 (LINE-1). We also found positive associations between DBP and methylation of the genes for toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), and a negative association between DBP and methylation of the gene for interferon-γ (IFN-γ). Associations between methylation and systolic blood pressure (SBP) were weaker than those between methylation and DBP. Bayesian mixed-effects structural equation model results were similar for both DBP and SBP models.
Conclusions The results of our study suggest that changes in DNA methylation of some pro-inflammatory genes and retrotransposable elements are related to small changes in BP.
PMCID: PMC3600626  PMID: 23508416
Epigenetics; DNA methylation; blood pressure; inflammation; Bayesian model
6.  Allergen sensitization is associated with increased DNA methylation in older men 
Variation in epigenetic modifications, arising from either environmental exposures or internal physiological changes, can influence gene expression, and may ultimately contribute to complex diseases such as asthma and allergies. We examined the association of asthma and allergic phenotypes with DNA methylation levels of retrotransposon-derived elements.
We used data from 704 men (mean age 73) in the longitudinal Normative Aging Study to assess the relationship between asthma, allergic phenotypes and DNA methylation levels of the retrotransposon derived elements Alu and LINE-1. Retrotransposons represent a large fraction of the genome (> 30%), and are heavily methylated to prevent expression. Percent methylation of Alu and LINE-1 elements in peripheral white blood cells was quantified using PCR pyrosequencing. Data on sensitization to common allergens by skin prick testing, asthma, and methacholine responsiveness was gathered approximately 8 years prior to DNA methylation analysis.
Prior allergen sensitization was associated with increased methylation of Alu (β=0.32 [sensitized vs. non-sensitized], p value 0.003), in models adjusted for pack-years, BMI, smoking, air pollutants, percent eosinophils, white blood cell count and age. Of the men interviewed, 5 % of subjects reported diagnosis of asthma. Neither Alu, nor LINE-1 methylation was associated with asthma.
These data suggest that increased DNA methylation of repetitive elements may be associated with allergen sensitization, but does not appear to be associated with asthma. Future work is needed to identify potential underlying mechanisms for these relationships.
PMCID: PMC3730837  PMID: 23257623
allergen sensitization; DNA methylation; Alu; and LINE-1
7.  Bone Lead and Endogenous Exposure in an Environmentally Exposed Elderly Population: the Normative Aging Study 
The objective of this study is to investigate the mobilization of lead from bone to blood (endogenous exposure) in a large epidemiologic population.
Study subjects were 776 participants in the Normative Aging Study. The subjects had their tibia lead, patella lead, blood lead, and/or urinary N-telopeptide (NTx) levels measured 1-4 times from 1991 to 2002. Regression models were estimated to quantify the association between tibia and patella lead and blood lead. We studied nonlinearity of the association, and explored possible factors that may modify it, including age and NTx levels.
Results and conclusions
There is significant association between bone lead and blood lead, and the association is non-linear. The non-linear associations between blood lead and bone lead are not significantly modified by age and NTx.
PMCID: PMC3800179  PMID: 19528829
8.  Vitamin D Deficiency, Smoking, and Lung Function in the Normative Aging Study 
Rationale: Vitamin D has immunomodulatory and antiinflammatory effects that may be modified by cigarette smoke and may affect lung function.
Objectives: To examine the effect of vitamin D deficiency and smoking on lung function and lung function decline.
Methods: A total of 626 men from the Normative Aging Study had 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels measured at three different times between 1984 and 2003 with concurrent spirometry. Vitamin D deficiency was defined as serum level ≤ 20 ng/ml. Statistical analysis was performed using multivariable linear regression and mixed effects models.
Measurements and Main Results: In the overall cohort, there was no significant effect of vitamin D deficiency on lung function or on lung function decline. In both cross-sectional and longitudinal multivariable models, there was effect modification by vitamin D status on the association between smoking and lung function. Cross-sectional analysis revealed lower lung function in current smokers with vitamin D deficiency (FEV1, FVC, and FEV1/FVC; P ≤ 0.0002), and longitudinal analysis showed more rapid rates of decline in FEV1 (P = 0.023) per pack-year of smoking in subjects with vitamin D deficiency as compared with subjects who were vitamin D sufficient.
Conclusions: Vitamin D deficiency was associated with lower lung function and more rapid lung function decline in smokers over 20 years in this longitudinal cohort of elderly men. This suggests that vitamin D sufficiency may have a protective effect against the damaging effects of smoking on lung function. Future studies should seek to confirm this finding in the context of smoking and other exposures that affect lung function.
PMCID: PMC3480523  PMID: 22822023
vitamin D; vitamin D deficiency; lung function decline; smoking; effect modification
9.  Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 Second and Cognitive Aging in Men 
To evaluate forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1, a measure of overall lung function), long-term average FEV1, and rate of decline in FEV1 in relation to cognition and cognitive decline in older men.
Prospective observational study.
Community-based population.
Eight hundred sixty-four older men from the Normative Aging Study.
Starting in 1984, participants underwent triennial clinical evaluations. Lung function assessments provided estimates of FEV1. Cognitive assessments entailing tests of several cognitive abilities began in 1993. FEV1 measured approximately 12 years before baseline cognitive testing, average FEV1 over the 12-year period, and rate of change in FEV1 were all evaluated in relation to baseline and change in performance on the cognitive tests.
In multivariable-adjusted analyses, associations between FEV1 and baseline cognitive scores were mixed, although average FEV1 predicted significantly better performance on tests of visuospatial ability (P =.04) and general cognition (P =.03). Higher FEV1 was more consistently associated with slower cognitive decline, but only the association between historical FEV1 and attention was significant (difference per standard deviation in FEV1 = 0.056, P =.05). Rate of FEV1 decline was not consistently associated with cognitive function or decline. Findings were generally similar or stronger in men who had never smoked. To account for potential bias due to selective attrition, inverse probability of censoring weights were applied to the cognitive decline analyses, yielding slightly larger estimates; the inadequate prognostic power of the censoring models limited this approach.
Overall, the data provide limited evidence of an inverse association between FEV1 and cognitive aging.
PMCID: PMC3758858  PMID: 21718272
lung function; cognition; cognitive decline; epidemiology; aging
10.  Long-term Exposure to Black Carbon and Carotid Intima-Media Thickness: The Normative Aging Study 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2013;121(9):1061-1067.
Background: Evidence suggests that air pollution is associated with atherosclerosis and that traffic-related particles are a particularly important contributor to the association.
Objectives: We investigated the association between long-term exposure to black carbon, a correlate of traffic particles, and intima-media thickness of the common carotid artery (CIMT) in elderly men residing in the greater Boston, Massachusetts, area.
Methods: We estimated 1-year average exposures to black carbon at the home addresses of Normative Aging Study participants before their first CIMT measurement. The association between estimated black carbon levels and CIMT was estimated using mixed effects models to account for repeated outcome measures. In secondary analyses, we examined whether living close to a major road or average daily traffic within 100 m of residence was associated with CIMT.
Results: There were 380 participants (97% self-reported white race) with an initial visit between 2004 and 2008. Two or three follow-up CIMT measurements 1.5 years apart were available for 340 (89%) and 260 (68%) men, respectively. At first examination, the average ± SD age was 76 ± 6.4 years and the mean ± SD CIMT was 0.99 ± 0.18 mm. A one-interquartile range increase in 1-year average black carbon (0.26 µg/m3) was associated with a 1.1% higher CIMT (95% CI: 0.4, 1.7%) based on a fully adjusted model.
Conclusions: Annual mean black carbon concentration based on spatially resolved exposure estimates was associated with CIMT in a population of elderly men. These findings support an association between long-term air pollution exposure and atherosclerosis.
Citation: Wilker EH, Mittleman MA, Coull BA, Gryparis A, Bots ML, Schwartz J, Sparrow D. 2013. Long-term exposure to black carbon and carotid intima-media thickness: the Normative Aging Study. Environ Health Perspect 121:1061–1067; [Online 2 July 2013]
PMCID: PMC3764069  PMID: 23820848
11.  Repetitive element hypomethylation in blood leukocyte DNA and cancer incidence, prevalence and mortality in elderly individuals: the Normative Aging Study 
Cancer causes & control : CCC  2010;22(3):437-447.
Global genomic hypomethylation is a common epigenetic event in cancer that mostly results from hypomethylation of repetitive DNA elements. Case-control studies have associated blood leukocyte DNA hypomethylation with several cancers. Because samples in case-control studies are collected after disease development, whether DNA hypomethylation is causal or just associated with cancer development is still unclear.
In 722 elderly subjects from the Normative Aging Study cohort, we examined whether DNA methylation in repetitive elements (Alu, LINE-1) was associated with cancer incidence (30 new cases, median follow-up: 89 months), prevalence (205 baseline cases), and mortality (28 deaths, median follow-up: 85 months). DNA methylation was measured by bisulfite pyrosequencing.
Individuals with low LINE-1 methylation (
These findings suggest that individuals with lower repetitive element methylation are at high risk of developing and dying from cancer.
PMCID: PMC3752839  PMID: 21188491
Repetitive elements; DNA methylation; Epigenetics; Blood; Cancer risk
American Journal of Epidemiology  2012;176(3):224-232.
DNA methylation is a potential pathway linking air pollution to disease. Studies indicate that psychological functioning modifies the association between pollution and morbidity. The authors estimated the association of DNA methylation with ambient particulate matter less than 2.5 µm in diameter (PM2.5) and black carbon, using mixed models. DNA methylation of the inducible nitric oxide synthase gene, iNOS, and the glucocorticoid receptor gene, GCR, was measured by quantitative polymerase chain reaction pyrosequencing of 1,377 blood samples from 699 elderly male participants in the VA Normative Aging Study (1999–2009). The authors also investigated whether this association was modified by psychological factors including optimism or pessimism, anxiety, and depression. iNOS methylation was decreased after acute exposure to both black carbon and PM2.5. A 1-μg/m3 increase in exposure to black carbon in the 4 hours preceding the clinical examination was associated with a 0.9% decrease in 5-methylcytosine (95% CI: 0.4, 1.4) in iNOS, and a 10-μg/m3 increase in exposure to PM2.5 was associated with a 0.6% decrease in 5-methylcytosine (95% CI: 0.03, 1.1) in iNOS. Participants with low optimism and high anxiety had associations that were 3–4 times larger than those with high optimism or low anxiety. GCR methylation was not associated with particulate air pollution exposure.
PMCID: PMC3491965  PMID: 22798479
air pollution; DNA methylation; psychology
Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.)  2010;21(6):819-828.
Epigenetic features such as DNA hypomethylation have been associated with conditions related to cardiovascular risk. We evaluated whether lower blood DNA methylation in heavily methylated repetitive sequences predicts the risk of ischemic heart disease and stroke.
We quantified blood DNA methylation of LINE-1 repetitive elements through PCR-pyrosequencing in 712 elderly individuals from the Boston-area Normative Aging Study. We estimated risk-factor adjusted relative risks (RRs) for ischemic heart disease and stroke at baseline (242 prevalent cases); as well as in incidence (44 new cases; median follow-up, 63 months); and subsequent mortality from ischemic heart disease (86 deaths; median follow-up, 75 months).
Blood LINE-1 hypomethylation was associated with baseline ischemic heart disease (RR=2.1 [95% confidence interval = 1.2 to 4.0] for lowest vs. highest methylation quartile) and for stroke (2.5 [0.9 to 7.5]). Among participants free of baseline disease, individuals with methylation below the median also had higher risk of developing ischemic heart disease (4.0 [1.8 to 8.9]) or stroke (5.7 [0.8 to 39.5]). In the entire cohort, persons with methylation below the median had higher mortality from ischemic heart disease (3.3 [1.3 to 8.4]) and stroke (2.8 [0.6 to 14.3]). Total mortality was also increased (2.0 [1.2 to 3.3]). These results were confirmed in additional regression models using LINE-1 methylation as a continuous variable.
Subjects with prevalent IHD and stroke exhibited lower LINE-1 methylation. In longitudinal analyses, persons with lower LINE-1 methylation were at higher risk for incident ischemic heart disease and stroke, and for total mortality.
PMCID: PMC3690659  PMID: 20805753
We evaluated the modifying influence of a δ-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase (ALAD) polymorphism on the relation between lead burden and cognition among older men.
Information on ALAD genotype, lead measurements, potential confounders, and cognitive testing was collected from 982 participants. For each cognitive test and lead biomarker, we fit separate multiple linear regression models which included an interaction term for ALAD genotype and the lead biomarker, and adjusted for potential confounders.
With higher levels of tibia lead, ALAD 1-2/2-2 carriers exhibited worse performance on a spatial copying test in comparison with ALAD 1-1 carriers (pinteraction=0.03). However, there was no consistent pattern of an ALAD genotype-lead interaction for the other tests.
The results provide some evidence that ALAD genotype modifies the relation between lead burden and cognition among older men with low lead burden, particularly for cognitive domains sensitive to the effects of cumulative lead burden.
PMCID: PMC3664949  PMID: 18784554
blood; bone and blood; lead; environmental; polymorphism; genetic; cognition; neuropsychological tests
Epigenetics  2012;7(3):261-269.
Lung function is a strong predictor of mortality. While inflammatory markers have been associated with lung function decrease, pathways are still poorly understood and epigenetic changes may participate in lung function decline mechanisms. We studied the cross-sectional association between DNA methylation in nine inflammatory genes and lung function in a cohort of 756 elderly men living in the metropolitan area of Boston. Participants donated a blood sample for DNA methylation analysis and underwent spirometry at each visit every 3 to 5 y from 1999–2006. We used separate multivariate mixed effects regression models to study the association between each lung function measurement and DNA methylation within each gene. Decreased CRAT, F3 and TLR2 methylation was significantly associated with lower lung function. One interquartile range (IQR) decrease in DNA methylation was associated with lower forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), respectively by 2.94% (p < 10−4) and 2.47% (p < 10−3) for F3 and by 2.10% (p < 10−2) and 2.42% (p < 10−3) for TLR2. Decreased IFNγ and IL6 methylation was significantly associated with better lung function. One IQR decrease in DNA methylation was associated with higher FEV1 by 1.75% (p = 0.02) and 1.67% (p = 0.05) for IFNγ and IL6, respectively. These data demonstrate that DNA methylation may be part of the biological processes underlying the lung function decline and that IFNγ and IL6 may have ambivalent roles through activation of negative feedback.
PMCID: PMC3335949  PMID: 22430802
DNA methylation; genes; spirometry; FEV1; lungs; TLR2; F3; INOS; GCR; OGG1
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;21(4):947-957.
The genetic risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are still largely unknown. To date, genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of limited size have identified several novel risk loci for COPD at CHRNA3/CHRNA5/IREB2, HHIP and FAM13A; additional loci may be identified through larger studies. We performed a GWAS using a total of 3499 cases and 1922 control subjects from four cohorts: the Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints (ECLIPSE); the Normative Aging Study (NAS) and National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT); Bergen, Norway (GenKOLS); and the COPDGene study. Genotyping was performed on Illumina platforms with additional markers imputed using 1000 Genomes data; results were summarized using fixed-effect meta-analysis. We identified a new genome-wide significant locus on chromosome 19q13 (rs7937, OR = 0.74, P = 2.9 × 10−9). Genotyping this single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and another nearby SNP in linkage disequilibrium (rs2604894) in 2859 subjects from the family-based International COPD Genetics Network study (ICGN) demonstrated supportive evidence for association for COPD (P = 0.28 and 0.11 for rs7937 and rs2604894), pre-bronchodilator FEV1 (P = 0.08 and 0.04) and severe (GOLD 3&4) COPD (P = 0.09 and 0.017). This region includes RAB4B, EGLN2, MIA and CYP2A6, and has previously been identified in association with cigarette smoking behavior.
PMCID: PMC3298111  PMID: 22080838
Epigenetics  2012;7(1):63-70.
DNA methylation has been associated with age-related disease. Intra-individual changes in gene-specific DNA methylation over time in a community-based cohort has not been well described. We estimated the change in DNA methylation due to aging for nine genes in an elderly, community-dwelling cohort of men. Seven hundred and eighty four men from the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study who were living in metropolitan Boston from 1999–2009 donated a blood sample for DNA methylation analysis at clinical examinations repeated at approximately 3-5 year intervals. We used mixed effects regression models. Aging was significantly associated with decreased methylation of GCR, iNOS and TLR2 and with increased methylation of IFNγ, F3, CRAT and OGG. Obstructive pulmonary disease at baseline modified the effect of aging on methylation of IFNγ (interaction p = 0.04). For participants who had obstructive pulmonary disease at their baseline visit, the rate of change of methylation of IFNγ was -0.05% 5-methyl-cytosine (5-mC) per year (95% CI: -0.22, 0.13), but was 0.14% 5-mC per year (95% CI: 0.05, 0.24) for those without this condition. Models with random slopes indicated significant heterogeneity in the effect of aging on methylation of GCR, iNOS and OGG. These findings suggest that DNA methylation may reflect differential biological aging.
PMCID: PMC3329504  PMID: 22207354
aging; DNA Mmthylation; epigenesis; genetic
American Journal of Epidemiology  2011;174(12):1345-1353.
Pessimism, a general tendency toward negative expectancies, is a risk factor for depression and also heart disease, stroke, and reduced cancer survival. There is evidence that individuals with higher lead exposure have poorer health. However, low socioeconomic status (SES) is linked with higher lead levels and greater pessimism, and it is unclear whether lead influences psychological functioning independently of other social factors. The authors considered interrelations among childhood and adult SES, lead levels, and psychological functioning in data collected on 412 Boston area men between 1991 and 2002 in a subgroup of the VA Normative Aging Study. Pessimism was measured by using the Life Orientation Test. Cumulative (tibia) lead was measured by x-ray fluorescence. Structural equation modeling was used to quantify the relations as mediated by childhood and adult SES, controlling for age, health behaviors, and health status. An interquartile range increase in lead quartile was associated with a 0.37 increase in pessimism score (P < 0.05). Low childhood and adult SES were related to higher tibia lead levels, and both were also independently associated with higher pessimism. Lead maintained an independent association with pessimism even after childhood and adult SES were considered. Results demonstrate an interrelated role of lead burden and SES over the life course in relation to psychological functioning in older age.
PMCID: PMC3276297  PMID: 22071587
depression; lead; metals; orientation; psychology; socioeconomic factors
Resistance training programs have been found to improve muscle strength, physical function, and depressive symptoms in middle-aged and older adults. These programs have typically been provided in clinical facilities, health clubs, and senior centers, which may be inconvenient and/or cost prohibitive for some older adults. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of an automated telemedicine intervention that provides real-time guidance and monitoring of resistance training in the home.
A randomized clinical trial in 103 middle-aged or older participants. Participants were assigned to use of a theory-driven interactive voice response system designed to promote resistance training (Telephone-Linked Computer-based Long-term Interactive Fitness Trainer; n = 52) or to an attention control (n = 51) for a period of 12 months. Measurements of muscle strength, balance, walk distance, and mood were obtained at baseline, 3, 6, and 12 months.
We observed increased strength, improved balance, and fewer depressive symptoms in the intervention group than in the control group. Using generalized estimating equations modeling, group differences were statistically significant for knee flexion strength (p = .035), single-leg stance time (p = .029), and Beck Depression Inventory (p = .030).
This computer-based telecommunications exercise intervention led to improvements in participants’ strength, balance, and depressive symptoms. Because of their low cost and easy accessibility, computer-based interventions may be a cost-effective way of promoting exercise in the home.
PMCID: PMC3304299  PMID: 21852283
Muscle strength; Balance; Resistance training
BMJ Open  2012;2(5):e001231.
To investigate the association between methylation of transposable elements Alu and long-interspersed nuclear elements (LINE-1) and lung function.
Cohort study.
Outpatient Veterans Administration facilities in greater Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Individuals from the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study, a longitudinal study of aging in men, evaluated between 1999 and 2007. The majority (97%) were white.
Primary and secondary outcome measures
Primary predictor was methylation, assessed using PCR-pyrosequencing after bisulphite treatment. Primary outcome was lung function as assessed by spirometry, performed according to American Thoracic Society/European Respiratory Society guidelines at the same visit as the blood draws.
In multivariable models adjusted for age, height, body mass index (BMI), pack-years of smoking, current smoking and race, Alu hypomethylation was associated with lower forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) (β=28 ml per 1% change in Alu methylation, p=0.017) and showed a trend towards association with a lower forced vital capacity (FVC) (β=27 ml, p=0.06) and lower FEV1/FVC (β=0.3%, p=0.058). In multivariable models adjusted for age, height, BMI, pack-years of smoking, current smoking, per cent lymphocytes, race and baseline lung function, LINE-1 hypomethylation was associated with more rapid decline of FEV1 (β=6.9 ml/year per 1% change in LINE-1 methylation, p=0.005) and of FVC (β=9.6 ml/year, p=0.002).
In multiple regression analysis, Alu hypomethylation was associated with lower lung function, and LINE-1 hypomethylation was associated with more rapid lung function decline in a cohort of older and primarily white men from North America. Future studies should aim to replicate these findings and determine if Alu or LINE-1 hypomethylation may be due to specific and modifiable environmental exposures.
PMCID: PMC3488751  PMID: 23075571
Epidemiology; Genetics
Bone lead is a cumulative measure of lead exposure that can also be remobilized. We examined repeated measures of bone lead over 11 years to characterize long-term changes and identify predictors of tibia and patella lead stores in an elderly male population.
Lead was measured every 3–5 years by k-x-ray fluorescence and mixed-effect models with random effects were used to evaluate change over time.
554 participants provided up to 4 bone lead measurements. Final models predicted a −1.4% annual decline (95%CI: −2.2,−0.7) for tibia lead and piecewise linear model for patella with an initial decline of 5.1% per year (95%CI: −6.2,−3.9) during the first 4.6 years but no significant change thereafter (−0.4% (95% CI: −2.4, 1.7)).
These results suggest that bone lead half-life may be longer than previously reported.
PMCID: PMC3159960  PMID: 21788910
Rationale: Chromosome 12p has been linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the Boston Early-Onset COPD Study (BEOCOPD), but a susceptibility gene in that region has not been identified.
Objectives: We used high-density single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) mapping to implicate a COPD susceptibility gene and an animal model to determine the potential role of SOX5 in lung development and COPD.
Methods: On chromosome 12p, we genotyped 1,387 SNPs in 386 COPD cases from the National Emphysema Treatment Trial and 424 control smokers from the Normative Aging Study. SNPs with significant associations were then tested in the BEOCOPD study and the International COPD Genetics Network. Based on the human results, we assessed histology and gene expression in the lungs of Sox5−/− mice.
Measurements and Main Results: In the case-control analysis, 27 SNPs were significant at P ≤ 0.01. The most significant SNP in the BEOCOPD replication was rs11046966 (National Emphysema Treatment Trial–Normative Aging Study P = 6.0 × 10−4, BEOCOPD P = 1.5 × 10−5, combined P = 1.7 × 10−7), located 3′ to the gene SOX5. Association with rs11046966 was not replicated in the International COPD Genetics Network. Sox5−/− mice showed abnormal lung development, with a delay in maturation before the saccular stage, as early as E16.5. Lung pathology in Sox5−/− lungs was associated with a decrease in fibronectin expression, an extracellular matrix component critical for branching morphogenesis.
Conclusions: Genetic variation in the transcription factor SOX5 is associated with COPD susceptibility. A mouse model suggests that the effect may be due, in part, to its effects on lung development and/or repair processes.
PMCID: PMC3137139  PMID: 21330457
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; emphysema; knockout mice; lung development; single nucleotide polymorphism
23.  Erratum to 
Epigenetics  2012;7(6):667.
It has come to the attention of the authors that Table 5 was not included in Epigenetics Volume 7, Issue 3 in the manuscript: Lepeule J, Baccarelli A, Tarantini L, Motta V, Cantone L, Litonjua AA, et al. Gene promoter methylation is associated with lung function in the elderly: The normative aging study. Epigenetics 2012; 7:261-9.
The citation for Table 5 should have appeared on p. 264, “Sensitivity analyses. The sensitivity analyses including par­ticipants with chronic lung diseases showed similar associations between lung function and DNA methylation as the main analy­ses, with only slight variations in significance (Table 5).”
PMCID: PMC3398994
American Journal of Epidemiology  2011;173(9):1013-1021.
Studies show that ambient temperature and air pollution are associated with cardiovascular disease and that they may interact to affect cardiovascular events. However, few epidemiologic studies have examined mechanisms through which ambient temperature may influence cardiovascular function. The authors examined whether temperature was associated with heart rate variability (HRV) in a Boston, Massachusetts, study population and whether such associations were modified by ambient air pollution concentrations. The population was a cohort of 694 older men examined between 2000 and 2008. The authors fitted a mixed model to examine associations between temperature and air pollution and their interactions with repeated HRV measurements, adjusting for covariates selected a priori on the basis of their previous studies. Results showed that higher ambient temperature was associated with decreases in HRV measures (standard deviation of normal-to-normal intervals, low-frequency power, and high-frequency power) during the warm season but not during the cold season. These warm-season associations were significantly greater when ambient ozone levels were higher (>22.3 ppb) but did not differ according to levels of ambient fine (≤2.5 μm) particulate matter. The authors conclude that temperature and ozone, exposures to both of which are expected to increase with climate change, might act together to worsen cardiovascular health and/or precipitate cardiovascular events via autonomic nervous system dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC3121221  PMID: 21385834
air pollution; heart rate; interaction; ozone; particulate matter; temperature
Environmental Health Perspectives  2011;120(3):361-366.
Background: Lead exposure has been associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) in animal and human studies. However, the mechanisms of action have not been fully elucidated. We therefore examined the relationship between lead and multiple biomarkers of CVD.
Methods: Participants were older men from the Normative Aging Study without preexisting coronary heart disease, diabetes, or active infection at baseline (n = 426). Serum biomarkers included lipid profile [total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and triglycerides] and inflammatory markers [C-reactive protein, intercellular adhesion molecule-1, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor receptor-2 (TNF-R2)]. We measured lead in blood and in bone by K-shell X-ray fluorescence. In this sample, 194 men (44.3%) had two or more repeated measures, resulting in 636 observations for analysis. We conducted analyses using mixed effects models with random subject intercepts.
Results: Lead levels were associated with several CVD biomarkers, including levels of TNF-R2 and lipid markers. Specifically, in multivariable models, a 50% increase in blood lead level was associated with 26% increased odds of high TNF-R2 levels (> 5.52 ng/mL; odds ratio = 1.26; 95% confidence interval: 1.09, 1.45). There were positive associations of blood lead level with total cholesterol and HDL levels, and these associations were more evident when modeled as continuous outcomes than when categorized using clinically relevant cut points. In addition, longitudinal analyses indicated a significant increase in TNF-R2 levels over time to be associated with high blood lead level at the preceding visit.
Conclusions: Blood lead level may be related with CVD in healthy older men through its association with TNF-R2 levels. In addition, the magnitude of the association of blood lead level with TNF-R2 level increased with age in the study population.
PMCID: PMC3295335  PMID: 22142875
aging; biomarkers; cardiovascular; cholesterol; inflammation; lead; metals

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