Longitudinal data reveal strong genetic and weak non-genetic components of ethnicity-dependent blood DNA methylation levels

Chris McKennan, Katherine Naughton, Catherine Stanhope, Meyer Kattan, George T. O’Connor, Megan T. Sandel, Cynthia M. Visness, Robert A. Wood, Leonard B. Bacharier, Avraham Beigelman, Stephanie Lovinsky-Desir, Alkis Togias, James E. Gern, Dan Nicolae, Carole Ober

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Epigenetic architecture is influenced by genetic and environmental factors, but little is known about their relative contributions or longitudinal dynamics. Here, we studied DNA methylation (DNAm) at over 750,000 CpG sites in mononuclear blood cells collected at birth and age 7 from 196 children of primarily self-reported Black and Hispanic ethnicities to study race-associated DNAm patterns. We developed a novel Bayesian method for high-dimensional longitudinal data and showed that race-associated DNAm patterns at birth and age 7 are nearly identical. Additionally, we estimated that up to 51% of all self-reported race-associated CpGs had race-dependent DNAm levels that were mediated through local genotype and, quite surprisingly, found that genetic factors explained an overwhelming majority of the variation in DNAm levels at other, previously identified, environmentally-associated CpGs. These results indicate that race-associated blood DNAm patterns in particular, and blood DNAm levels in general, are primarily driven by genetic factors, and are not as sensitive to environmental exposures as previously suggested, at least during the first 7 years of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEpigenetics
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

Keywords

  • Bayesian
  • DNA methylation
  • gene vs. environment
  • longitudinal epigenetics
  • race/ethnicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research

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