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1.  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
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.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  Structural equation modeling of parasympathetic and sympathetic response to traffic air pollution in a repeated measures study 
Environmental Health  2013;12:81.
Traffic-related air pollution has been associated to a range of adverse health impacts, including decreased heart rate variability (HRV). The association between traffic-related pollution and HRV, however, has varied by traffic-related or HRV marker as well as by study, suggesting the need for a more comprehensive and integrative approach to examining air pollution-mediated biological impacts on these outcomes. In a Bayesian framework, we examined the effect of traffic pollution on HRV using structural equation models (SEMs) and looked at effect modification by participant characteristics.
We studied measurements of 5 HRV markers [high frequency (HF), low frequency (LF), 5-min standard deviation of normal-to-normal intervals (SDNN), square root of the mean squared differences of successive normal-to-normal intervals (rMSSD), and LF/HF ratio (LF/HF)] for 700 elderly men from the Normative Aging Study. Using SEMs, we fit a latent variable for traffic pollution that is reflected by levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and black carbon (BC) to estimate its effect on latent variable for parasympathetic tone that included HF, SDNN and rMSSD, and the sympathetic tone marker, LF/HF. Exposure periods were assessed using 4-, 24-, 48-, 72-hour moving average pre-visit. We compared our main effect findings using SEMs with those obtained using linear mixed models.
Traffic pollution was not associated with mean parasympathetic tone and LF/HF for all examined moving averages. In Bayesian linear mixed models, however, BC was related to increased LF/HF, an inter quartile range (IQR) increase in BC was associated with a 6.5% (95% posterior interval (PI): -0.7%, 14.2%) increase in mean LF/HF 24-hours later. The strongest association observed was for the 4-hour moving average (10.1%; 95% PI: 3.0%, 17.6%). The effect of traffic on parasympathetic tone was stronger among diabetic as compared to non-diabetic participants. Specifically, an IQR increase in traffic pollution in the 48-hr prior to the clinic visit was associated with a 44.3% (95% PI: -67.7%, -4.2%) lower mean parasympathetic tone among diabetics, and a 7.7% (95% PI: -18.0%, 41.4%) higher mean parasympathetic tone among non-diabetics.
BC was associated with adverse changes LF/HF in the elderly. Traffic pollution may decrease parasympathetic tone among diabetic elderly.
PMCID: PMC3907044  PMID: 24059437
Bayesian; Diabetes; HRV; Obesity; Parasympathetic response; Structural equation models; Sympathetic response and Traffic air pollution
8.  Arsenic exposure and DNA methylation among elderly men 
Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.)  2012;23(5):668-676.
Arsenic exposure has been linked to epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation in in vitro and animal studies. This association has also been explored in highly exposed human populations, but studies among populations environmentally exposed to low arsenic levels are lacking.
We evaluated the association between exposure to arsenic, measured in toenails, and blood DNA methylation in Alu and Long Interspersed Nucleotide Element-1 (LINE-1) repetitive elements in elderly men environmentally exposed to low levels of arsenic. We also explored potential effect modification by plasma folate, cobalamin (vitamin B12), and pyridoxine (vitamin B6). The study population was 581 participants from the Normative Aging Study in Boston, of whom 434, 140, and 7 had 1, 2, and 3 visits, respectively, between 1999-2002 and 2006-2007. We used mixed-effects models and included interaction terms to assess potential effect modification by nutritional factors.
There was a trend of increasing Alu and decreasing LINE-1 DNA methylation as arsenic exposure increased. In subjects with plasma folate below the median (< 14.1 ng/ml), arsenic was positively associated with Alu DNA methylation (β=0.08 [95% confidence interval = 0.03 to 0.13] for one interquartile range [0.06μg/g] increase in arsenic) while a negative association was observed in subjects with plasma folate above the median (β=-0.08 [-0.17 to 0.01]).
We found an association between arsenic exposure and DNA methylation in Alu repetitive elements that varied by folate level. This suggests a potential role for nutritional factors in arsenic toxicity.
PMCID: PMC3448132  PMID: 22833016
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.  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
Particulate air pollution is associated with cardiovascular events, but the mechanisms are not fully understood. The main objective was to assess the relationship between long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution and blood pressure (BP).
The authors used longitudinal data from 853 elderly men participating in the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study, followed during 1996–2008. Long-term average exposures to traffic particles were created from daily predictions of black carbon (BC) exposure at the geocoded address of each subject, using a validated spatiotemporal model based on ambient monitoring at 82 Boston-area locations. The authors examined the association of these exposures with BP using a mixed model. The authors included the following covariates: age, body mass index, smoking, alcohol, fasting glucose, creatinine clearance, use of cardiovascular medication, education, census-level poverty, day of week and season of clinical visit.
The authors found significant positive associations between 1-year average BC exposure and both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. An IQR increase in 1-year average BC exposure (0.32 µg/m3) was associated with a 2.64 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure (95% CI 1.47 to 3.80) and a 2.41 mm Hg increase in diastolic blood pressure (95% CI 1.77 to 3.05).
Long-term exposure to traffic particles is associated with increased BP, which may explain part of the association with myocardial infarctions and cardiovascular deaths reported in cohort studies.
PMCID: PMC3597742  PMID: 22383587
Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.)  2012;23(2):332-340.
Previous studies suggest that air pollution is related to thrombosis, inflammation, and endothelial dysfunction. Mechanisms and sources of susceptibility are still unclear. One possibility is that these associations can be modified by DNA methylation states.
We conducted a cohort study with repeated measurements of fibrinogen, C-reactive protein, intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) in 704 elderly men participating in the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study (2000-2009). We investigated short- and intermediate-term air pollution effects on these blood markers, and epigene-environment interactions by DNA methylation of Alu, LINE-1, tissue factor (F3), Toll-Like Receptor 2 (TLR-2), and ICAM-1.
We found effects of particle number, black carbon, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and carbon monoxide (CO) on fibrinogen. Ozone was a significant predictor of C-reactive protein and ICAM-1. Particle number, black carbon, NO2, CO, PM2.5, and sulfates were associated with ICAM-1and VCAM-1. An interquartile range increase in 24-hour exposure for NO2; was associated with a 1.7% (95% confidence interval = 0.2% to 3.3%) increase in fibrinogen for ozone a 10.8% (2.2% to 20.0%) increase in C-reactive protein for particle number, a 5.9% (3.6% to 8.3%) increase in ICAM-1; and for PM2.5 a 3.7% (1.7% to 5.8%) increase in VCAM-1. The air pollution effect was stronger among subjects having higher Alu, lower LINE-1, tissue factor, or TLR-2 methylation status.
We observed associations of traffic-related pollutants on fibrinogen, and both traffic and secondary particles on C-reactive protein, ICAM-1, and VCAM-1. There was effect modification by DNA methylation status, indicating that epigenetic states can convey susceptibility to air pollution.
PMCID: PMC3285258  PMID: 22237295
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
Background Estimates of global DNA methylation from repetitive DNA elements, such as Alu and LINE-1, have been increasingly used in epidemiological investigations because of their relative low-cost, high-throughput and quantitative results. Nevertheless, determinants of these methylation measures in healthy individuals are still largely unknown. The aim of this study was to examine whether age, gender, smoking habits, alcohol drinking and body mass index (BMI) are associated with Alu or LINE-1 methylation levels in blood leucocyte DNA of healthy individuals.
Methods Individual data from five studies including a total of 1465 healthy subjects were combined. DNA methylation was quantified by PCR-pyrosequencing.
Results Age [β = −0.011% of 5-methyl-cytosine (%5mC)/year, 95% confidence interval (CI) −0.020 to −0.001%5mC/year] and alcohol drinking (β = −0.214, 95% CI −0.415 to −0.013) were inversely associated with Alu methylation. Compared with females, males had lower Alu methylation (β = −0.385, 95% CI −0.665 to −0.104) and higher LINE-1 methylation (β = 0.796, 95% CI 0.261 to 1.330). No associations were found with smoking or BMI. Percent neutrophils and lymphocytes in blood counts exhibited a positive (β = 0.036, 95% CI 0.010 to 0.061) and negative (β = −0.038, 95% CI −0.065 to −0.012) association with LINE-1 methylation, respectively.
Conclusions Global methylation measures in blood DNA vary in relation with certain host and lifestyle characteristics, including age, gender, alcohol drinking and white blood cell counts. These findings need to be considered in designing epidemiological investigations aimed at identifying associations between DNA methylation and health outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3304518  PMID: 20846947
Blood; DNA methylation; epigenetics; meta-analysis; repetitive elements
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
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
20.  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  2012;120(5):674-680.
Background: Traffic-related particles (TRPs) are associated with adverse cardiovascular events. The exact mechanisms are unclear, but systemic inflammatory responses likely play a role.
Objectives: We conducted a repeated measures study among male participants of the Normative Aging Study in the greater Boston, Massachusetts, area to determine whether individual-level residential black carbon (BC), a marker of TRPs, is associated with systemic inflammation and whether coronary heart disease (CHD), diabetes, and obesity modify associations.
Methods: We quantified markers of inflammation in 1,163 serum samples from 580 men. Exposure to BC up to 4 weeks prior was predicted from a validated spatiotemporal land-use regression model. Linear mixed effects models estimated the effects of BC on each marker while adjusting for potential confounders.
Results: Associations between BC and blood markers were not observed in main effects models or when stratified by obesity status. However, BC was positively associated with markers of inflammation in men with CHD (particularly vascular endothelial growth factor) and in men with diabetes (particularly interleukin-1β and tumor necrosis factor-α). Significant exposure time windows varied by marker, although in general the strongest associations were observed with moving averages of 2–7 days after a lag of several days.
Conclusions: In an elderly male population, estimated BC exposures were positively associated with markers of systemic inflammation but only in men with CHD or diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3346771  PMID: 22336131
air pollution; black carbon; cardiovascular disease; coronary heart disease; diabetes; inflammation; land-use regression model; particulate matter; susceptible; traffic
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
Environmental Health Perspectives  2011;120(1):98-104.
Background: Arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead are associated with cardiovascular disease in epidemiologic research. These associations may be mediated by direct effects of the metals on blood pressure (BP) elevation. Manganese is associated with cardiovascular dysfunction and hypotension in occupational cohorts.
Objectives: We hypothesized that chronic arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead exposures elevate BP and that manganese lowers BP.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of associations between toenail metals and BP among older men from the Normative Aging Study (n = 639), using linear regression and adjusting for potential confounders.
Results: An interquartile range increase in toenail arsenic was associated with higher systolic BP [0.93 mmHg; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.25, 1.62] and pulse pressure (0.76 mmHg; 95% CI: 0.22, 1.30). Positive associations between arsenic and BP and negative associations between manganese and BP were strengthened in models adjusted for other toenail metals.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest associations between BP and arsenic and manganese. This may be of public health importance because of prevalence of both metal exposure and cardiovascular disease. Results should be interpreted cautiously given potential limitations of toenails as biomarkers of metal exposure.
PMCID: PMC3261928  PMID: 21878420
arsenic; blood pressure; cadmium; epidemiology; lead; manganese; mercury; metals
Particulate matter (PM) has been associated with acute cardiovascular outcomes, but our understanding of the mechanism is incomplete. We examined the association between PM and cell adhesion molecules. We also investigated the modifying effect of genotype and phenotype variation to gain insight into the relevant biological pathways for this association.
We used mixed regression models to examine the association of PM2.5 and black carbon (BC) with serum concentrations of soluble Intercellular Adhesion Molecule (sICAM-1) and soluble Vascular Cell Adhesion Molecule (sVCAM-1), markers of endothelial function and inflammation, in a longitudinal study of 809 participants in the Normative Aging Study (1819 total observations). We also examined whether this association was modified by genotype, obesity, or diabetes status. Genes selected for analyses were either related to oxidative stress, endothelial function, lipid metabolism or metal processing.
BC during the 2 days prior to blood draw was significantly associated with increased sVCAM-1 (4.5% increase per 1μg/m3 95% CI 1.1, 8.0). Neither pollutant was associated with sICAM-1. Larger effects of BCon sVCAM were seen in subjects with obesity (p=0.007) and who were GSTM1 null (p=0.02).
BC is associated with markers of endothelial function and inflammation. Genes related to oxidative defense may modify this association.
PMCID: PMC3229824  PMID: 19884647
air pollution; epidemiology; genetic susceptibility; particulates

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