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1.  Association of cigarette smoking and CRP levels with DNA methylation in α-1 antitrypsin deficiency 
Epigenetics  2012;7(7):720-728.
Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency and tobacco smoking are confirmed risk factors for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. We hypothesized that variable DNA methylation would be associated with smoking and inflammation, as reflected by the level of C-Reactive Protein (CRP) in AAT-deficient subjects. Methylation levels of 1,411 autosomal CpG sites from the Illumina GoldenGate Methylation Cancer Panel I were analyzed in 316 subjects. Associations of five smoking behaviors and CRP levels with individual CpG sites and average methylation levels were assessed using non-parametric testing, linear regression and linear mixed effect models, with and without adjustment for age and gender. Univariate linear regression analysis revealed that methylation levels of 16 CpG sites significantly associated with ever-smoking status. A CpG site in the TGFBI gene was the only site associated with ever-smoking after adjustment for age and gender. No highly significant associations existed between age at smoking initiation, pack-years smoked, duration of smoking, and time since quitting smoking as predictors of individual CpG site methylation levels. However, ever-smoking and younger age at smoking initiation associated with lower methylation level averaged across all sites. DNA methylation at CpG sites in the RUNX3, JAK3 and KRT1 genes associated with CRP levels. The most significantly associated CpG sites with gender and age mapped to the CASP6 and FZD9 genes, respectively. In summary, this study identified multiple potential candidate CpG sites associated with ever-smoking and CRP level in AAT-deficient subjects. Phenotypic variability in Mendelian diseases may be due to epigenetic factors.
PMCID: PMC3414392  PMID: 22617718
68kDa (TGFBI); C-Reactive Protein (CRP); Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD); Illumina GoldenGate Methylation Cancer Panel I; alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency; beta-induced; methylation; smoking behaviors; transforming growth factor
2.  Variable DNA Methylation Is Associated with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Lung Function 
Rationale: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with local (lung) and systemic (blood) inflammation and manifestations. DNA methylation is an important regulator of gene transcription, and global and specific gene methylation marks may vary with cigarette smoke exposure.
Objectives: To perform a comprehensive assessment of methylation marks in DNA from subjects well phenotyped for nonneoplastic lung disease.
Methods: We conducted array-based methylation screens, using a test-replication approach, in two family-based cohorts (n = 1,085 and 369 subjects).
Measurements and Main Results: We observed 349 CpG sites significantly associated with the presence and severity of COPD in both cohorts. Seventy percent of the associated CpG sites were outside of CpG islands, with the majority of CpG sites relatively hypomethylated. Gene ontology analysis based on these 349 CpGs (330 genes) suggested the involvement of a number of genes responsible for immune and inflammatory system pathways, responses to stress and external stimuli, as well as wound healing and coagulation cascades. Interestingly, our observations include significant, replicable associations between SERPINA1 hypomethylation and COPD and lower average lung function phenotypes (combined P values: COPD, 1.5 × 10−23; FEV1/FVC, 1.5 × 10−35; FEV1, 2.2 × 10−40).
Conclusions: Genetic and epigenetic pathways may both contribute to COPD. Many of the top associations between COPD and DNA methylation occur in biologically plausible pathways. This large-scale analysis suggests that DNA methylation may be a biomarker of COPD and may highlight new pathways of COPD pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3297093  PMID: 22161163
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; epigenetics; DNA methylation; smoking
3.  Systemic Steroid Exposure Is Associated with Differential Methylation in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Rationale: Systemic glucocorticoids are used therapeutically to treat a variety of medical conditions. Epigenetic processes such as DNA methylation may reflect exposure to glucocorticoids and may be involved in mediating the responses and side effects associated with these medications.
Objectives: To test the hypothesis that differences in DNA methylation are associated with current systemic steroid use.
Methods: We obtained DNA methylation data at 27,578 CpG sites in 14,475 genes throughout the genome in two large, independent cohorts: the International COPD Genetics Network (ndiscovery = 1,085) and the Boston Early Onset COPD study (nreplication = 369). Sites were tested for association with current systemic steroid use using generalized linear mixed models.
Measurements and Main Results: A total of 511 sites demonstrated significant differential methylation by systemic corticosteroid use in all three of our primary models. Pyrosequencing validation confirmed robust differential methylation at CpG sites annotated to genes such as SLC22A18, LRP3, HIPK3, SCNN1A, FXYD1, IRF7, AZU1, SIT1, GPR97, ABHD16B, and RABGEF1. Functional annotation clustering demonstrated significant enrichment in intrinsic membrane components, hemostasis and coagulation, cellular ion homeostasis, leukocyte and lymphocyte activation and chemotaxis, protein transport, and responses to nutrients.
Conclusions: Our analyses suggest that systemic steroid use is associated with site-specific differential methylation throughout the genome. Differentially methylated CpG sites were found in biologically plausible and previously unsuspected pathways; these genes and pathways may be relevant in the development of novel targeted therapies.
PMCID: PMC3622442  PMID: 23065012
DNA methylation; glucocorticoids; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
4.  Cigarette smoking behaviors and time since quitting are associated with differential DNA methylation across the human genome 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(13):3073-3082.
The impact of cigarette smoking can persist for extended periods following smoking cessation and may involve epigenetic reprogramming. Changes in DNA methylation associated with smoking may help to identify molecular pathways that contribute to the latency between exposure and disease onset. Cross-sectional cohort data from subjects in the International COPD Genetics Network (n = 1085) and the Boston Early-Onset COPD study (n = 369) were analyzed as the discovery and replication cohorts, respectively. Genome-wide methylation data on 27 578 CpG sites in 14 475 genes were obtained on DNA from peripheral blood leukocytes using the Illumina HumanMethylation27K Beadchip in both cohorts. We identified 15 sites significantly associated with current smoking, 2 sites associated with cumulative smoke exposure, and, within the subset of former smokers, 3 sites associated with time since quitting cigarettes. Two loci, factor II receptor-like 3 (F2RL3) and G-protein-coupled receptor 15 (GPR15), were significantly associated in all three analyses and were validated by pyrosequencing. These findings (i) identify a novel locus (GPR15) associated with cigarette smoking and (ii) suggest the existence of dynamic, site-specific methylation changes in response to smoking which may contribute to the extended risks associated with cigarette smoking that persist after cessation.
PMCID: PMC3373248  PMID: 22492999
5.  Alu and LINE-1 methylation and lung function in the normative ageing study 
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
6.  Association of IREB2 and CHRNA3 polymorphisms with airflow obstruction in severe alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency 
Respiratory Research  2012;13(1):16.
The development of COPD in subjects with alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency is likely to be influenced by modifier genes. Genome-wide association studies and integrative genomics approaches in COPD have demonstrated significant associations with SNPs in the chromosome 15q region that includes CHRNA3 (cholinergic nicotine receptor alpha3) and IREB2 (iron regulatory binding protein 2).
We investigated whether SNPs in the chromosome 15q region would be modifiers for lung function and COPD in AAT deficiency.
The current analysis included 378 PIZZ subjects in the AAT Genetic Modifiers Study and a replication cohort of 458 subjects from the UK AAT Deficiency National Registry. Nine SNPs in LOC123688, CHRNA3 and IREB2 were selected for genotyping. FEV1 percent of predicted and FEV1/FVC ratio were analyzed as quantitative phenotypes. Family-based association analysis was performed in the AAT Genetic Modifiers Study. In the replication set, general linear models were used for quantitative phenotypes and logistic regression models were used for the presence/absence of emphysema or COPD.
Three SNPs (rs2568494 in IREB2, rs8034191 in LOC123688, and rs1051730 in CHRNA3) were associated with pre-bronchodilator FEV1 percent of predicted in the AAT Genetic Modifiers Study. Two SNPs (rs2568494 and rs1051730) were associated with the post-bronchodilator FEV1 percent of predicted and pre-bronchodilator FEV1/FVC ratio; SNP-by-gender interactions were observed. In the UK National Registry dataset, rs2568494 was significantly associated with emphysema in the male subgroup; significant SNP-by-smoking interactions were observed.
IREB2 and CHRNA3 are potential genetic modifiers of COPD phenotypes in individuals with severe AAT deficiency and may be sex-specific in their impact.
PMCID: PMC3306733  PMID: 22356581
CHRNA3; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Genetic association analysis; Genetic modifiers; IREB2

Results 1-6 (6)