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1.  Microvesicle-associated microRNA expression is altered upon particulate matter exposure in healthy workers and in A549 cells 
Journal of Applied Toxicology  2014;35(1):59-67.
Cardiovascular disease risk has been consistently linked with particulate matter (PM) exposure. Cell-derived microvesicles (MVs) are released into plasma and transfer microRNAs (miRNAs) between tissues. MVs can be produced by the respiratory system in response to proinflammatory triggers, enter the circulatory system and remotely modify gene expression in cardiovascular tissues. However, whether PM affects MV signaling has never been investigated. In this study, we evaluated expression of microRNAs contained within plasma MVs upon PM exposure both in vivo and in vitro. In the in vivo study, we isolated plasma MVs from healthy steel plant workers before and after workplace PM exposure. We measured the expression of 88 MV-associated miRNAs by real-time polymerase chain reaction. To assess a possible source of the MV miRNAs identified in vivo, we measured their miRNA expression in PM-treated A549 pulmonary cell lines in vitro. MiRNA profiling of plasma MVs showed 5.62- and 13.95-fold increased expression of miR-128 and miR-302c, respectively, after 3 days of workplace PM exposure (P < 0.001). According to Ingenuity Pathway Analysis, miR-128 is part of coronary artery disease pathways, and miR-302c is part of coronary artery disease, cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure pathways. In vitro experiments confirmed a dose-dependent expression of miR-128 in MVs released from A549 cells after 6 h of PM treatment (P = 0.030). MiR-302c was expressed neither from A549 cells nor in reference lung RNA. These results suggest novel PM-activated molecular mechanisms that may mediate the effects of air pollution and could lead to the identification of new diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Journal of Applied Toxicology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Cell-derived microvesicles (MVs) are found in plasma and may transfer signals between tissues. In this article, we report in-vivo and in-vitro studies demonstrating that Particulate Matter (PM) affects systemic MV signaling by inducing MV release from alveolar cells into plasma. In-vivo microRNA screening showed increased miR-128 level in plasma MVs after PM exposure. In-vitro experiments confirmed PM-induced release of miR-128 in MVs from A549 alveolar cells. Future studies are warranted to determine the roles of MVs in mediating PM effects.
PMCID: PMC4125569  PMID: 24515752
Particulate matter; microRNAs; microvesicles; steel plant workers; A549 cells
2.  Aberrant Methylation of Hypermethylated-in-Cancer-1 and Exocyclic DNA Adducts in Tobacco Smokers 
Toxicological Sciences  2013;137(1):47-54.
Tobacco smoke has been shown to produce both DNA damage and epigenetic alterations. However, the potential role of DNA damage in generating epigenetic changes is largely underinvestigated in human studies. We examined the effects of smoking on the levels of DNA methylation in genes for tumor protein p53, cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor2A, hypermethylated-in-cancer-1 (HIC1), interleukin-6, Long Interspersed Nuclear Element type1, and Alu retrotransposons in blood of 177 residents in Thailand using bisulfite-PCR andpyrosequencing. Then, we analyzed the relationship of this methylation with the oxidative DNA adduct, M1dG (a malondialdehyde adduct), measured by 32P-postlabeling. Multivariate statistical analyses showed that HIC1 methylation levels were significantly increased in smokers compared with nonsmokers (p ≤ .05). A dose response was observed, with the highest HIC1 methylation levels in smokers of ≥ 10 cigarettes/day relative to nonsmokers and intermediate values in smokers of 1–9 cigarettes/day (p for trend ≤ .001). No additional relationships were observed. We also evaluated correlations between M1dG and the methylation changes at each HIC1 CpG site individually. The levels of this adduct in smokers showed a significant linear correlation with methylation at one of the 3 CpGs evaluated in HIC1: hypermethylation at position 1904864340 was significantly correlated with the adduct M1dG (covariate-adjusted regression coefficient (β) = .224 ± .101 [SE], p ≤ .05). No other correlations were detected. Our study extends prior work by others associating hypermethylation of HIC1 with smoking; shows that a very specific hypermethylation event can arise from smoking; and encourages future studies that explore a possible role for M1dG in connecting smoking to this latter hypermethylation.
PMCID: PMC3871933  PMID: 24154486
tobacco smoking; overall and site specific methylation; HIC1; oxidative DNA damage; M1dG.
3.  Effects of Temperature and Relative Humidity on DNA Methylation 
Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.)  2014;25(4):561-569.
Previous studies have found relationships between DNA methylation and various environmental contaminant exposures. Associations with weather have not been examined. Because temperature and humidity are related to mortality even on non-extreme days, we hypothesized that temperature and relative humidity may affect methylation.
We repeatedly measured methylation on long interspersed nuclear elements (LINE-1), Alu, and 9 candidate genes in blood samples from 777 elderly men participating in the normative aging Study (1999–2009). We assessed whether ambient temperature and relative humidity are related to methylation on LINE-1 and Alu, as well as on genes controlling coagulation, inflammation, cortisol, DNA repair, and metabolic pathway. We examined intermediate-term associations of temperature, relative humidity, and their interaction with methylation, using distributed lag models.
Temperature or relative humidity levels were associated with methylation on tissue factor (F3), intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1), toll-like receptor 2 (TRL-2), carnitine O-acetyltransferase (CRAT), interferon gamma (IFN-γ), inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), and glucocorticoid receptor, LINE-1, and Alu. For instance, a 5°c increase in 3-week average temperature in ICAM-1 methylation was associated with a 9% increase (95% confidence interval: 3% to 15%), whereas a 10% increase in 3-week average relative humidity was associated with a 5% decrease (−8% to −1%). The relative humidity association with ICAM-1 methylation was stronger on hot days than mild days.
DNA methylation in blood cells may reflect biological effects of temperature and relative humidity. Temperature and relative humidity may also interact to produce stronger effects.
PMCID: PMC4224120  PMID: 24809956
4.  Heart rate variability and DNA methylation levels are altered after short-term metal fume exposure among occupational welders: a repeated-measures panel study 
BMC Public Health  2014;14(1):1279.
In occupational settings, boilermakers are exposed to high levels of metallic fine particulate matter (PM2.5) generated during the welding process. The effect of welding PM2.5 on heart rate variability (HRV) has been described, but the relationship between PM2.5, DNA methylation, and HRV is not known.
In this repeated-measures panel study, we recorded resting HRV and measured DNA methylation levels in transposable elements Alu and long interspersed nuclear element-1 (LINE-1) in peripheral blood leukocytes under ambient conditions (pre-shift) and right after a welding task (post-shift) among 66 welders. We also monitored personal PM2.5 level in the ambient environment and during the welding procedure.
The concentration of welding PM2.5 was significantly higher than background levels in the union hall (0.43 mg/m3 vs. 0.11 mg/m3, p < 0.0001). The natural log of transformed power in the high frequency range (ln HF) had a significantly negative association with PM2.5 exposure (β = -0.76, p = 0.035). pNN10 and pNN20 also had a negative association with PM2.5 exposure (β = -0.16%, p = 0.006 and β = -0.13%, p = 0.030, respectively). PM2.5 was positively associated with LINE-1 methylation [β = 0.79%, 5-methylcytosince (%mC), p = 0.013]; adjusted for covariates. LINE-1 methylation did not show an independent association with HRV.
Acute decline of HRV was observed following exposure to welding PM2.5 and evidence for an epigenetic response of transposable elements to short-term exposure to high-level metal-rich particulates was reported.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-1279) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4302115  PMID: 25512264
5.  Mitochondria, Energetics, Epigenetics, and Cellular Responses to Stress 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2014;122(12):1271-1278.
Background: Cells respond to environmental stressors through several key pathways, including response to reactive oxygen species (ROS), nutrient and ATP sensing, DNA damage response (DDR), and epigenetic alterations. Mitochondria play a central role in these pathways not only through energetics and ATP production but also through metabolites generated in the tricarboxylic acid cycle, as well as mitochondria–nuclear signaling related to mitochondria morphology, biogenesis, fission/fusion, mitophagy, apoptosis, and epigenetic regulation.
Objectives: We investigated the concept of bidirectional interactions between mitochondria and cellular pathways in response to environmental stress with a focus on epigenetic regulation, and we examined DNA repair and DDR pathways as examples of biological processes that respond to exogenous insults through changes in homeostasis and altered mitochondrial function.
Methods: The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences sponsored the Workshop on Mitochondria, Energetics, Epigenetics, Environment, and DNA Damage Response on 25–26 March 2013. Here, we summarize key points and ideas emerging from this meeting.
Discussion: A more comprehensive understanding of signaling mechanisms (cross-talk) between the mitochondria and nucleus is central to elucidating the integration of mitochondrial functions with other cellular response pathways in modulating the effects of environmental agents. Recent studies have highlighted the importance of mitochondrial functions in epigenetic regulation and DDR with environmental stress. Development and application of novel technologies, enhanced experimental models, and a systems-type research approach will help to discern how environmentally induced mitochondrial dysfunction affects key mechanistic pathways.
Conclusions: Understanding mitochondria–cell signaling will provide insight into individual responses to environmental hazards, improving prediction of hazard and susceptibility to environmental stressors.
Citation: Shaughnessy DT, McAllister K, Worth L, Haugen AC, Meyer JN, Domann FE, Van Houten B, Mostoslavsky R, Bultman SJ, Baccarelli AA, Begley TJ, Sobol RW, Hirschey MD, Ideker T, Santos JH, Copeland WC, Tice RR, Balshaw DM, Tyson FL. 2014. Mitochondria, energetics, epigenetics, and cellular responses to stress. Environ Health Perspect 122:1271–1278;
PMCID: PMC4256704  PMID: 25127496
6.  A-clustering: a novel method for the detection of co-regulated methylation regions, and regions associated with exposure 
Bioinformatics  2013;29(22):2884-2891.
Motivation: DNA methylation is a heritable modifiable chemical process that affects gene transcription and is associated with other molecular markers (e.g. gene expression) and biomarkers (e.g. cancer or other diseases). Current technology measures methylation in hundred of thousands, or millions of CpG sites throughout the genome. It is evident that neighboring CpG sites are often highly correlated with each other, and current literature suggests that clusters of adjacent CpG sites are co-regulated.
Results: We develop the Adjacent Site Clustering (A-clustering) algorithm to detect sets of neighboring CpG sites that are correlated with each other. To detect methylation regions associated with exposure, we propose an analysis pipeline for high-dimensional methylation data in which CpG sites within regions identified by A-clustering are modeled as multivariate responses to environmental exposure using a generalized estimating equation approach that assumes exposure equally affects all sites in the cluster. We develop a correlation preserving simulation scheme, and study the proposed methodology via simulations. We study the clusters detected by the algorithm on high dimensional dataset of peripheral blood methylation of pesticide applicators.
Availability: We provide the R package Aclust that efficiently implements the A-clustering and the analysis pipeline, and produces analysis reports. The package is found on
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3810849  PMID: 23990415
7.  Short-term airborne particulate matter exposure alters the epigenetic landscape of human genes associated with the mitogen-activated protein kinase network: a cross-sectional study 
Environmental Health  2014;13(1):94.
Exposure to air particulate matter is known to elevate blood biomarkers of inflammation and to increase cardiopulmonary morbidity and mortality. Major components of airborne particulate matter typically include black carbon from traffic and sulfates from coal-burning power plants. DNA methylation is thought to be sensitive to these environmental toxins and possibly mediate environmental effects on clinical outcomes via regulation of gene networks. The underlying mechanisms may include epigenetic modulation of major inflammatory pathways, yet the details remain unclear.
We sought to elucidate how short-term exposure to air pollution components, singly and/or in combination, alter blood DNA methylation in certain inflammation-associated gene networks, MAPK and NF-κB, which may transmit the environmental signal(s) and influence the inflammatory pathway in vivo. To this end, we utilized a custom-integrated workflow—molecular processing, pollution surveillance, biostatical analysis, and bioinformatic visualization—to map novel human (epi)gene pathway-environment interactions.
Specifically, out of 84 MAPK pathway genes considered, we identified 11 whose DNA methylation status was highly associated with black carbon exposure, after adjusting for potential confounders—age, sulfate exposure, smoking, blood cell composition, and blood pressure. Moreover, after adjusting for these confounders, multi-pollutant analysis of synergistic DNA methylations significantly associated with sulfate and BC exposures yielded 14 MAPK genes. No associations were found with the NF-κB pathway.
Exposure to short-term air pollution components thus resulted in quantifiable epigenetic changes in the promoter areas of MAPK pathway genes. Bioinformatic mapping of single- vs. multi-exposure-associated epigenetic changes suggests that these alterations might affect biological pathways in nuanced ways that are not simply additive or fully predictable via individual-level exposure assessments.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1476-069X-13-94) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4273424  PMID: 25395096
8.  Air pollution exposure and lung function in highly exposed subjects in Beijing, China: a repeated-measure study 
Exposure to ambient particulate matter (PM) has been associated with reduced lung function. Elemental components of PM have been suggested to have critical roles in PM toxicity, but their contribution to respiratory effects remains under-investigated. We evaluated the effects of traffic-related PM2.5 and its elemental components on lung function in two highly exposed groups of healthy adults in Beijing, China.
The Beijing Truck Driver Air Pollution Study (BTDAS) included 60 truck drivers and 60 office workers evaluated in 2008. On two days separated by 1-2 weeks, we measured lung function at the end of the work day, personal PM2.5, and nine elemental components of PM2.5 during eight hours of work, i.e., elemental carbon (EC), potassium (K), sulfur (S), iron (Fe), silicon (Si), aluminum (Al), zinc (Zn), calcium (Ca), and titanium (Ti). We used covariate-adjusted mixed-effects models including PM2.5 as a covariate to estimate the percentage change in lung function associated with an inter-quartile range (IQR) exposure increase.
The two groups had high and overlapping exposure distributions with mean personal PM2.5 of 94.6 μg/m3 (IQR: 48.5-126.6) in office workers and 126.8 μg/m3 (IQR: 73.9-160.5) in truck drivers. The distributions of the nine elements showed group-specific profiles and generally higher levels in truck drivers. In all subjects combined, forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC) did not significantly correlate with PM2.5. However, FEV1 showed negative associations with concentrations of four elements: Si (-3.07%, 95% CI: -5.00; -1.11, IQR: 1.54), Al (-2.88%, 95% CI: -4.91; -0.81, IQR: 0.86), Ca (-1.86%, 95% CI: -2.95; -0.76, IQR: 1.33), and Ti (-2.58%, 95% CI: -4.44; -0.68, IQR: 0.03), and FVC showed negative associations with concentrations of three elements: Si (-3.23%, 95% CI: -5.61; -0.79), Al (-3.26%, 95% CI: -5.73; -0.72), and Ca (-1.86%, 95% CI: -3.23; -0.47). In stratified analysis, Si, Al, Ca, and Ti showed associations with lung function only among truck drivers, and no significant association among office workers.
Selected elemental components of PM2.5 showed effects on lung function that were not found in analyses of particle levels alone.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12989-014-0051-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4192276  PMID: 25272992
Lung function; Metals; Particulate matter; Traffic exposure; FEV1; FVC
9.  Mitochondrial DNA Copy Number and Exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons 
Increased mitochondrial DNA copy number (mtDNAcn) is a biological response to mtDNA damage and dysfunction predictive of lung cancer risk. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are established lung carcinogens and may cause mitochondrial toxicity. Whether PAH exposure and PAH-related nuclear DNA (nDNA) genotoxic effects are linked with increased mtDNAcn has never been evaluated.
We investigated the effect of chronic exposure to PAHs on mtDNAcn in peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) of 46 Polish male non-current smoking cokeoven workers and 44 matched controls, who were part of a group of 94 study individuals examined in our previous work. Subjects PAH exposure and genetic alterations were characterized through measures of internal dose (urinary 1-pyrenol), target dose [anti-benzo[a]pyrene diolepoxide (anti-BPDE)-DNA adduct], genetic instability (micronuclei, MN and telomere length [TL]) and DNA methylation [p53 promoter] in PBLs. mtDNAcn (MT/S) was measured using a validated real-time PCR method.
Workers with PAH exposure above the median value (>3 µmol 1-pyrenol/mol creatinine) showed higher mtDNAcn [geometric means (GM) of 1.06 (unadjusted) and 1.07 (age-adjusted)] compared to controls [GM 0.89 (unadjusted); 0.89 (age-adjusted)] (p=0.029 and 0.016), as well as higher levels of genetic and chromosomal [i.e. anti-BPDE-DNA adducts (p<0.001), MN (p<0.001) and TL (p=0.053)] and epigenetic [i.e., p53 gene-specific promoter methylation (p<0.001)] alterations in the nDNA. In the whole study population, unadjusted and age-adjusted mtDNAcn was positively correlated with 1-pyrenol (p=0.043 and 0.032) and anti-BPDE-DNA adducts (p=0.046 and 0.049).
PAH exposure and PAH-related nDNA genotoxicity are associated with increased mtDNAcn.
The present study is suggestive of potential roles of mtDNAcn in PAH-induced carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3799962  PMID: 23885040
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon; pulmonary carcinogens; mitochondrial DNA copy number; nuclear DNA damage; occupational exposure
10.  Influence of multiple APOE genetic variants on cognitive function in a cohort of older men – results from the Normative Aging Study 
BMC Psychiatry  2014;14(1):223.
APOE is the biomarker with the greatest known influence on cognitive function; however, the effect of complex haplotypes involving polymorphisms rs449647, rs405509, rs440446, rs429358 and rs7412 has never been studied in older populations.
We evaluated APOE polymorphisms using multiplex PCR for genotyping and Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) to evaluate cognitive function in 819 individuals from VA Normative Aging Study.
Combinatorial analysis of all polymorphisms and individual analysis of polymorphisms rs449647, rs405509, rs440446 and rs7412 did not show any association with cognitive performance. Polymorphism rs429358 was associated with better cognitive performance (odds of MMSE ≤ 25 = 0.63, 95% CI 0.42-0.95; p = 0.03) in the oldest subsample (5th quintile of age) (odds of MMSE ≤ 25 = 0.34; 95% CI 0.13-0.86; p = 0.02). APOE allele ε4 was also associated with better cognitive performance (odds of MMSE ≤ 25 = 0.61, 95% CI 0.40-0.94; p = 0.02), also in the oldest subsample (odds of MMSE ≤ 25 = 0.35, 95% CI 0.14-0.90; p = 0.03).
These results suggest a beneficial effect of polymorphism rs429358 in the oldest men.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12888-014-0223-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4149270  PMID: 25085564
APOE; Epsilon; Alleles; Haplotypes; Cognitive decline; Aging; Genetic variants
11.  Epigenome-wide DNA methylation changes with development of arsenic-induced skin lesions in Bangladesh: a case-control follow-up study 
Studies have found an association between aberrant DNA methylation and arsenic-induced skin lesions. Yet, little is known about DNA methylation changes over time in people who develop arsenic-induced skin lesions. We sought to investigate epigenome-wide changes of DNA methylation in people who developed arsenic-induced skin lesions in a ten year period. In 2009–2011, we conducted a follow-up study of 900 skin lesion cases and 900 controls and identified 10 people who developed skin lesions since a baseline survey in 2001–2003. The 10 cases (“New Cases”) were matched with 10 controls who did not have skin lesions at baseline or follow-up (“Persistent Controls”). Drinking water and blood samples were collected and skin lesion was diagnosed by the same physician at both time points. We measured DNA methylation in blood using Infinium HumanMethylation450K BeadChip, followed by quantitative validation using pyrosequencing. Two-sample t-tests were used to compare changes in percent methylation between New Cases and Persistent Controls. Six CpG sites with greatest changes of DNA methylation over time among New Cases were further validated with a correlation of 93% using pyrosequencing. One of the validated CpG site (cg03333116; change of %methylation was 13.2 in New Cases versus −0.09 in Persistent Controls; P <0.001) belonged to the RHBDF1 gene, which was previously reported to be hypermethylated in arsenic-exposed cases. We examined DNA methylation changes with the development of arsenic-induced skin lesions over time but nothing was statistically significant given the small sample size of this exploratory study and the high dimensionality of data.
PMCID: PMC4082746  PMID: 24677489
Arsenic; DNA methylation; Illumina 450K; longitudinal; skin lesion
12.  Epigenetic Influences on Associations between Air Pollutants and Lung Function in Elderly Men: The Normative Aging Study 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2014;122(6):566-572.
Background: Few studies have been performed on pulmonary effects of air pollution in the elderly—a vulnerable population with low reserve capacity—and mechanisms and susceptibility factors for potential effects are unclear.
Objectives: We evaluated the lag structure of air pollutant associations with lung function and potential effect modification by DNA methylation (< or ≥ median) at 26 individual CpG sites in nine candidate genes in a well-characterized cohort of elderly men.
Methods: We measured forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in 1 sec (FEV1), and blood DNA methylation one to four times between 1999 and 2009 in 776 men from the Normative Aging Study. Air pollution was measured at fixed monitors 4 hr to 28 days before lung function tests. We used linear mixed-effects models to estimate the main effects of air pollutants and effect modification by DNA methylation.
Results: An interquartile range (IQR) increase in subchronic exposure (3 to 28 days cumulated), but not in acute exposure (during the previous 4 hr, or the current or previous day), to black carbon, total and nontraffic particles with aerodynamic diameter ≤ 2.5 μm (PM2.5), carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide was associated with a 1–5% decrease in FVC and FEV1 (p < 0.05). Slope estimates were greater for FVC than FEV1, and increased with cumulative exposure. The estimates slopes for air pollutants (28 days cumulated) were higher in participants with low (< median) methylation in TLR2 at position 2 and position 5 and high (≥ median) methylation in GCR.
Conclusions: Subchronic exposure to traffic-related pollutants was associated with significantly reduced lung function in the elderly; nontraffic pollutants (particles, ozone) had weaker associations. Epigenetic mechanisms related to inflammation and immunity may influence these associations.
Citation: Lepeule J, Bind MAC, Baccarelli AA, Koutrakis P, Tarantini L, Litonjua A, Sparrow D, Vokonas P, Schwartz JD. 2014. Epigenetic influences on associations between air pollutants and lung function in elderly men: the Normative Aging Study. Environ Health Perspect 122:566–572;
PMCID: PMC4050500  PMID: 24602767
13.  Mitochondrial haplogroups modify the effect of black carbon on age-related cognitive impairment 
Environmental Health  2014;13:42.
Traffic-related air pollution has been linked with impaired cognition in older adults, possibly due to effects of oxidative stress on the brain. Mitochondria are the main source of cellular oxidation. Haplogroups in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mark individual differences in oxidative potential and are possible determinants of neurodegeneration. The aim of this study was to investigate whether mtDNA haplogroups determined differential susceptibility to cognitive effects of long-term exposure to black carbon (BC), a marker of traffic-related air pollution.
We investigated 582 older men (72 ± 7 years) in the VA Normative Aging Study cohort with ≤4 visits per participant (1.8 in average) between 1995–2007. Low (≤25) Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) was used to assess impaired cognition in multiple domains. We fitted repeated-measure logistic regression using validated-LUR BC estimated in the year before their first visit at the participant’s address.
Mitochondrial haplotyping identified nine haplogroups phylogenetically categorized in four clusters. BC showed larger effect on MMSE in Cluster 4 carriers, including I, W and X haplogroups, [OR = 2.7; 95% CI (1.3-5.6)], moderate effect in Cluster 1, including J and T haplogroups [OR = 1.6; 95% CI: (0.9-2.9)], and no effect in Cluster 2 (H and V haplogroups) [OR = 1.1; 95% CI: (0.8-1.5)] or Cluster 3 (K and U haplogroups) [OR = 1.0; 95% CI: (0.6-1.6)]. BC effect varied only moderately across the I, X, and W haplogroups or across the J and T haplogroups.
The association of BC with impaired cognition was worsened in carriers of phylogenetically-related mtDNA haplogroups in Cluster 4. No BC effects were detected in Cluster 2 and 3 carriers. MtDNA haplotypes may modify individual susceptibility to the particle cognitive effects.
PMCID: PMC4049407  PMID: 24884505
mtDNA haplogroups; Air pollution; Black carbon; Cognitive decline; Mini-mental state examination
14.  Temperature, Myocardial Infarction, and Mortality: Effect Modification by Individual and Area-Level Characteristics 
Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.)  2013;24(3):439-446.
While several studies have examined associations between temperature and cardiovascular-disease-related mortality, fewer have investigated the association between temperature and the development of acute myocardial infarction (MI). Moreover, little is known about who is most susceptible to the effects of temperature.
We analyzed data from the Worcester Heart Attack Study, a community-wide investigation of acute MI in residents of the Worcester (MA) metropolitan area. We used a case-crossover approach to examine the association of apparent temperature with acute MI occurrence and with all-cause in-hospital and post-discharge mortality. We examined effect modification by sociodemographic characteristics, medical history, clinical complications, and physical environment.
A decrease in an interquartile range (IQR) in apparent temperature was associated with an increased risk of acute MI on the same day (hazard ratio=1.15 [95% confidence interval= 1.01–1.31]). Extreme cold during the 2 days prior was associated with an increased risk of acute MI (1.36 [1.07–1.74]). Extreme heat during the two days prior was also associated with an increased risk of mortality (1.44 [1.06–1.96]). Persons living in areas with greater poverty were more susceptible to heat.
Exposure to cold increased the risk of acute MI, and exposure to heat increased the risk of dying after an acute MI. Local area vulnerability should be accounted for as cities prepare to adapt to weather fluctuations as a result of climate change.
PMCID: PMC4037287  PMID: 23462524
15.  Altered Methylation in Tandem Repeat Element and Elemental Component Levels in Inhalable Air Particles 
Exposure to particulate matter (PM) has been associated with lung cancer risk in epidemiology investigations. Elemental components of PM have been suggested to have critical roles in PM toxicity, but the molecular mechanisms underlying their association with cancer risks remain poorly understood. DNA methylation has emerged as a promising biomarker for environmental-related diseases, including lung cancer. In this study, we evaluated the effects of PM elemental components on methylation of three tandem repeats 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. On two days separated by 1-2 weeks, we measured blood DNA methylation of SATα, NBL2, D4Z4, and personal exposure to eight elemental components in PM2.5, including aluminum (Al), silicon (Si), sulfur (S), potassium (K), calcium (Ca) titanium (Ti), iron (Fe), and zinc (Zn). We estimated the associations of individual elemental component with each tandem repeat methylation in generalized estimating equations (GEE) models adjusted for PM2.5 mass and other covariates. Out of the eight examined elements, NBL2 methylation was positively associated with concentrations of Si (0.121, 95%CI: 0.030; 0.212, FDR=0.047) and Ca (0.065, 95%CI: 0.014; 0.115, FDR=0.047) in truck drivers. In office workers, SATα methylation was positively associated with concentrations of S (0.115, 95%CI: 0.034; 0.196, FDR=0.042). PM-associated differences in blood tandem-repeat methylation may help detect biological effects of the exposure and identify individuals who may eventually experience higher lung cancer risk.
PMCID: PMC4001244  PMID: 24273195
Tandem repeats; DNA methylation; lung cancer
16.  A Novel Genetic Score Approach Using Instruments to Investigate Interactions between Pathways and Environment: Application to Air Pollution 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e96000.
Air pollution has been associated with increased systemic inflammation markers. We developed a new pathway analysis approach to investigate whether gene variants within relevant pathways (oxidative stress, endothelial function, and metal processing) modified the association between particulate air pollution and fibrinogen, C-reactive protein (CRP), intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1). Our study population consisted of 822 elderly participants of the Normative Aging Study (1999–2011). To investigate the role of biological mechanisms and to reduce the number of comparisons in the analysis, we created pathway-specific scores using gene variants related to each pathway. To select the most appropriate gene variants, we used the least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (Lasso) to relate independent outcomes representative of each pathway (8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine for oxidative stress, augmentation index for endothelial function, and patella lead for metal processing) to gene variants. A high genetic score corresponds to a higher allelic risk profile. We fit mixed-effects models to examine modification by the genetic score of the weekly air pollution association with the outcome. Among participants with higher genetic scores within the oxidative stress pathway, we observed significant associations between particle number and fibrinogen, while we did not find any association among participants with lower scores (pinteraction = 0.04). Compared to individuals with low genetic scores of metal processing gene variants, participants with higher scores had greater effects of particle number on fibrinogen (pinteraction = 0.12), CRP (pinteraction = 0.02), and ICAM-1 (pinteraction = 0.08). This two-stage penalization method is easy to implement and can be used for large-scale genetic applications.
PMCID: PMC3995963  PMID: 24755831
17.  Ambient particulate air pollution and microRNAs in elderly men 
Ambient particulate matter (PM) has been associated with mortality and morbidity for cardiovascular disease (CVD). MicroRNAs control gene expression at a post-transcriptional level. Altered microRNA expression has been reported in processes related to CVD and PM exposure, e.g. systemic inflammation, endothelial dysfunction and atherosclerosis. Polymorphisms in microRNA-related genes could influence response to PM.
We investigated the association of exposure to ambient particles in several time windows (4-hours to 28-days moving averages) and blood-leukocyte expression changes in fourteen candidate microRNAs, in 153 elderly males from the Normative Aging Study (examined 2005–2009). Potential effect modification by six single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in three microRNA-related genes was investigated. Fine PM (PM2.5), black carbon, organic carbon and sulfates were measured at a stationary ambient monitoring site. Linear regression models, adjusted for potential confounders, were used to assess effects of particles and SNP-by-pollutant interaction. An in silico pathways analysis was performed on target genes of miRNAs associated with the pollutants.
We found a negative association for pollutants in all moving averages and miR-1, -126, -135a, -146a, -155, -21, -222 and -9. The strongest associations were observed with the 7-day moving averages for PM2.5 and black carbon and with the 48-hour moving averages for organic carbon. The association with sulfates was stable across the moving averages. The in silico pathway analysis identified 18 pathways related to immune response shared by at least two miRNAs; in particular, the “HMGB1/RAGE signaling pathway” was shared by miR-126, -146a, -155, -21 and -222.
No important associations were observed for miR-125a-5p, -125b, -128, -147, -218 and -96. We found significant SNP-by-pollutant interactions for rs7813, rs910925 and rs1062923 in GEMIN4 and black carbon and PM2.5 for miR-1, -126, -146a, -222 and -9, and for rs1640299 in DGCR8 and SO42− for miR-1 and -135a.
Exposure to ambient particles could cause a downregulation of microRNAs involved in processes related to PM exposure. Polymorphisms in GEMIN4 and DGCR8 could modify these associations.
PMCID: PMC3977338  PMID: 24257509
18.  Integrative Analysis of miRNA and Inflammatory Gene Expression After Acute Particulate Matter Exposure 
Toxicological Sciences  2013;132(2):307-316.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are environmentally sensitive inhibitors of gene expression that may mediate the effects of metal-rich particulate matter (PM) and toxic metals on human individuals. Previous environmental miRNA studies have investigated a limited number of candidate miRNAs and have not yet evaluated the functional effects on gene expression. In this study, we wanted to identify PM-sensitive miRNAs using microarray profiling on matched baseline and postexposure RNA from foundry workers with well-characterized exposure to metal-rich PM and to characterize miRNA relations with expression of candidate inflammatory genes. We applied microarray analysis of 847 human miRNAs and real-time PCR analysis of 18 candidate inflammatory genes on matched blood samples collected from foundry workers at baseline and after 3 days of work (postexposure). We identified differentially expressed miRNAs (fold change [FC] > 2 and p < 0.05) and correlated their expression with the inflammatory associated genes. We performed in silico network analysis in MetaCore v6.9 to characterize the biological pathways connecting miRNA-mRNA pairs. Microarray analysis identified four miRNAs that were differentially expressed in postexposure compared with baseline samples, including miR-421 (FC = 2.81, p < 0.001), miR-146a (FC = 2.62, p = 0.007), miR-29a (FC = 2.91, p < 0.001), and let-7g (FC = 2.73, p = 0.019). Using false discovery date adjustment for multiple comparisons, we found 11 miRNA-mRNA correlated pairs involving the 4 differentially expressed miRNAs and candidate inflammatory genes. In silico network analysis with MetaCore database identified biological interactions for all the 11 miRNA-mRNA pairs, which ranged from direct mRNA targeting to complex interactions with multiple intermediates. Acute PM exposure may affect gene regulation through PM-responsive miRNAs that directly or indirectly control inflammatory gene expression.
PMCID: PMC3595525  PMID: 23358196
miRNA expression; integrative analysis; mRNA expression; inflammation; metal-rich particulate matter; microarray.
19.  Association between birth weight and DNA methylation of IGF2, glucocorticoid receptor and repetitive elements LINE-1 and Alu 
Epigenomics  2013;5(3):271-281.
We examined the association between birth weight and methylation in the imprinted IGF/H19 loci, the nonimprinted gene NR3C1 and repetitive element DNA (LINE-1 and Alu).
Materials & methods
We collected umbilical cord venous blood from 219 infants born in Mexico City (Mexico) as part of a prospective birth cohort study and analyzed DNA methylation using pyrosequencing.
Birth weight was not associated with DNA methylation of the regions studied. One of the CpG dinucleotides in the IGF2 imprinting control region (ICR)1 includes a potential C–T SNP. Among individuals with an absence of methylation at this site, probably due to a paternally inherited T allele, birth weight was associated with mean methylation status of both IGF2 ICR1 and ICR2. However, this association would not have survived adjustment for multiple testing.
While we did not detect an association between DNA methylation and birth weight, our study suggests a potential gene–epigene interaction between a T allele in the IGF2 ICR1 and methylation of ICRs of IGF2, and fetal growth.
PMCID: PMC3787720  PMID: 23750643
Alu; birth weight; DNA methylation; fetal growth; glucocorticoid receptor; IGF2; imprinting; LINE-1; NR3C1; SNP
20.  Storage conditions and stability of global DNA methylation in placental tissue 
Epigenomics  2013;5(3):10.2217/epi.13.29.
The placenta is an informative and easily available tissue for many epidemiological studies. We analyzed the extent to which storage delay affects DNA methylation.
Material & methods
Biopsies from two placentas were sequentially stored at −80°C after standing at room temperature for 30 min, 1 h, 2 h, 6 h and 24 h. Global DNA methylation was measured by bisulfite pyrosequencing of repetitive elements and the luminometric methylation assay.
Small changes in global DNA methylation in relation to time-to-storage were observed by pyrosequencing, with a coefficient of variation (COV) of 2.49% (placenta 1) and 2.86% (placenta 2), similar to the mean technical variation observed for pyrosequencing (COV: 1.91 and 1.51%, respectively). A luminometric methylation assay yielded more variable results in the two placentas analyzed, both among time points (COV: 9.13 and 10.35%, respectively) and technical replicates (COV: 11.60 and 9.80%, respectively).
Global DNA methylation is stable at room temperature. However, some techniques to measure methylation might be confounded by DNA degradation caused by a delay in storage.
PMCID: PMC3855826  PMID: 23750648
cohort study; DNA methylation stability; luminometric methylation assay; placenta; pyrosequencing; variability
21.  Blood Hypomethylation of Inflammatory Genes Mediates the Effects of Metal-rich Airborne Pollutants on Blood Coagulation 
Recent investigations have associated airborne Particulate Matter (PM) with increased coagulation and thrombosis, but underlying biological mechanisms are still incompletely characterized. DNA methylation is an environmentally-sensitive mechanism of gene regulation that could potentially contribute to PM-induced hypercoagulability. We aimed to test whether altered methylation mediates environmental effects on coagulation.
We investigated 63 steel workers exposed to a wide range of PM levels, as a work-related condition with well-characterized prothrombotic exposure. We measured personal PM10 (PM≤10 μm in aerodynamic diameter), PM1 (≤1 μm), and air metal components. We determined leukocyte DNA methylation of NOS3 (nitric-oxide-synthase-3) and EDN1 (endothelin-1) through bisulfite-pyrosequencing and we measured Endogenous Thrombin Potential (ETP), as a global coagulation-activation test after standardized triggers.
ETP increased in association with PM10 (β=20.0, 95%CI: 3.0, 37.0), PM1 (β=80.8 95%CI: 14.9, 146.7), and zinc (β=51.3, 95%CI: 0.01, 111.1) exposures. NOS3 methylation was negatively associated with PM10 (β=−0.2, 95%CI: −0.4, −0.03), PM1 (β=−0.8, 95%CI: −1.4, −0.1), zinc (β=−0.9, 95%CI: −1.4, −0.3) and iron (β=−0.7, 95%CI: −1.4, −0.01) exposures. Zinc exposure was negatively associated with EDN1 (β=−0.3, 95%CI: −0.8, −0.1) methylation. Lower NOS3 (β=−42.3; p<0.001) and EDN1 (β=−14.5; p=0.05) were associated with higher ETP. Statistical mediation analysis formally confirmed NOS3 and EDN1 hypomethylation as intermediate mechanisms for PM-related coagulation effects.
Our study showed for the first time, that gene hypomethylation contributes to environmentally-induced hypercoagulability.
PMCID: PMC3963398  PMID: 23476046
Air pollution; DNA methylation; coagulation
22.  ADCYAP1R1 and Asthma in Puerto Rican Children 
Rationale: Epigenetic and/or genetic variation in the gene encoding the receptor for adenylate-cyclase activating polypeptide 1 (ADCYAP1R1) has been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder in adults and anxiety in children. Psychosocial stress has been linked to asthma morbidity in Puerto Rican children.
Objectives: To examine whether epigenetic or genetic variation in ADCYAP1R1 is associated with childhood asthma in Puerto Ricans.
Methods: We conducted a case-control study of 516 children ages 6–14 years living in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We assessed methylation at a CpG site in the promoter of ADCYAP1R1 (cg11218385) using a pyrosequencing assay in DNA from white blood cells. We tested whether cg11218385 methylation (range, 0.4–6.1%) is associated with asthma using logistic regression. We also examined whether exposure to violence (assessed by the Exposure to Violence [ETV] Scale in children 9 yr and older) is associated with cg11218385 methylation (using linear regression) or asthma (using logistic regression). Logistic regression was used to test for association between a single nucleotide polymorphism in ADCYAP1R1 (rs2267735) and asthma under an additive model. All multivariate models were adjusted for age, sex, household income, and principal components.
Measurements and Main Results: Each 1% increment in cg11218385 methylation was associated with increased odds of asthma (adjusted odds ratio, 1.3; 95% confidence interval, 1.0–1.6; P = 0.03). Among children 9 years and older, exposure to violence was associated with cg11218385 methylation. The C allele of single nucleotide polymorphism rs2267735 was significantly associated with increased odds of asthma (adjusted odds ratio, 1.3; 95% confidence interval, 1.02–1.67; P = 0.03).
Conclusions: Epigenetic and genetic variants in ADCYAP1R1 are associated with asthma in Puerto Rican children.
PMCID: PMC3733434  PMID: 23328528
methylation; ADCYAP1R1; childhood asthma; Puerto Ricans; violence
23.  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
24.  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
25.  Maternal OGTT Glucose Levels at 26–30 Gestational Weeks with Offspring Growth and Development in Early Infancy 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:516980.
Aims. We aim to evaluate the association of maternal gestational oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) glucose concentrations with anthropometry in the offspring from birth to 12 months in Tianjin, China. Methods. A total of 27,157 pregnant women underwent OGTT during 26–30 weeks gestation, and their children had body weight/length measured from birth to 12 months old. Results. Maternal OGTT glucose concentrations at 26–30 gestational weeks were positively associated with Z-scores for birth length-for-gestational age and birth weight-for-length. Compared with infants born to mothers with normal glucose tolerance, infants born to mothers with gestational diabetes mellitus (impaired glucose tolerance/new diabetes) had higher mean values of Z-scores for birth length-for-gestational age (0.07/0.23; normal group −0.08) and birth weight-for-length (0.27/0.57; normal group −0.001), smaller changes in mean values of Z-scores for length-for-age (0.75/0.62; normal group 0.94) and weight-for-length (0.18/−0.17; normal group 0.37) from birth to month 3, and bigger changes in mean values in Z-scores for weight-for-length (0.07/0.12; normal group 0.02) from month 9 to 12. Conclusions. Abnormal maternal glucose tolerance during pregnancy was associated with higher birth weight and birth length, less weight and length gain in the first 3 months of life, and more weight gain in the months 9–12 of life.
PMCID: PMC3943263  PMID: 24689042

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