The objective of the study was to evaluate LINE-1 methylation as an intermediate biomarker for the effect of folate and vitamin B12 on the occurrence of higher grades of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN 2+).
Study included 376 women who tested positive for HR-HPVs and were diagnosed with CIN 2+ (cases) or ≤ CIN 1 (non-cases). CIN 2+ (yes/no) was the dependent variable in logistic regression models that specified the degree of LINE-1 methylation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and of exfoliated cervical cells (CCs) as the independent predictors of primary interest. In analyses restricted to non-cases, PBMC LINE-1 methylation (≥70% vs. <70%) and CC LINE-1 methylation (≥54% vs. <54%) were the dependent variables in logistic regression models that specified the circulating concentrations of folate and vitamin B12 as the primary independent predictors.
Women in the highest tertile of PBMC LINE-1 methylation had 56% lower odds of being diagnosed with CIN 2+ (OR = 0.44; 95% CI, 0.24-0.83; P = 0.011) while there was no significant association between degree of CC LINE-1 methylation and CIN 2+ (OR = 0.86; 95% CI, 0.51-1.46; P = 0.578). Among non-cases, women with supra-physiologic concentrations of folate (>19.8 ng/mL) and sufficient concentrations of plasma vitamin B12 (≥ 200.6 ng/mL) were significantly more likely to have highly methylated PBMCs compared to women with lower folate and lower vitamin B12 (OR = 3.92; 95% CI, 1.06-14.52; P = 0.041). None of the variables including folate and vitamin B12 were significantly associated with CC LINE-1 methylation.
These results suggest that a higher degree of LINE-1 methylation in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, a one-carbon nutrient related epigenetic alteration, is associated with a lower risk of developing cervical intraepithelial neoplasia.