Publications by authors named "Jonathan Mill"

192 Publications

DNA methylation-based sex classifier to predict sex and identify sex chromosome aneuploidy.

BMC Genomics 2021 Jun 28;22(1):484. Epub 2021 Jun 28.

School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, UK.

Background: Sex is an important covariate of epigenome-wide association studies due to its strong influence on DNA methylation patterns across numerous genomic positions. Nevertheless, many samples on the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) frequently lack a sex annotation or are incorrectly labelled. Considering the influence that sex imposes on DNA methylation patterns, it is necessary to ensure that methods for filtering poor samples and checking of sex assignment are accurate and widely applicable.

Results: Here we presented a novel method to predict sex using only DNA methylation beta values, which can be readily applied to almost all DNA methylation datasets of different formats (raw IDATs or text files with only signal intensities) uploaded to GEO. We identified 4345 significantly (p<0.01) sex-associated CpG sites present on both 450K and EPIC arrays, and constructed a sex classifier based on the two first principal components of the DNA methylation data of sex-associated probes mapped on sex chromosomes. The proposed method is constructed using whole blood samples and exhibits good performance across a wide range of tissues. We further demonstrated that our method can be used to identify samples with sex chromosome aneuploidy, this function is validated by five Turner syndrome cases and one Klinefelter syndrome case.

Conclusions: This proposed sex classifier not only can be used for sex predictions but also applied to identify samples with sex chromosome aneuploidy, and it is freely and easily accessible by calling the 'estimateSex' function from the newest wateRmelon Bioconductor package ( https://github.com/schalkwyk/wateRmelon ).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12864-021-07675-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8240370PMC
June 2021

Novel epigenetic clock for fetal brain development predicts prenatal age for cellular stem cell models and derived neurons.

Mol Brain 2021 Jun 26;14(1):98. Epub 2021 Jun 26.

College of Medicine and Health, University of Exeter, RILD Building Level 3, Barrack Rd, Exeter, UK.

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and their differentiated neurons (iPSC-neurons) are a widely used cellular model in the research of the central nervous system. However, it is unknown how well they capture age-associated processes, particularly given that pluripotent cells are only present during the earliest stages of mammalian development. Epigenetic clocks utilize coordinated age-associated changes in DNA methylation to make predictions that correlate strongly with chronological age. It has been shown that the induction of pluripotency rejuvenates predicted epigenetic age. As existing clocks are not optimized for the study of brain development, we developed the fetal brain clock (FBC), a bespoke epigenetic clock trained in human prenatal brain samples in order to investigate more precisely the epigenetic age of iPSCs and iPSC-neurons. The FBC was tested in two independent validation cohorts across a total of 194 samples, confirming that the FBC outperforms other established epigenetic clocks in fetal brain cohorts. We applied the FBC to DNA methylation data from iPSCs and embryonic stem cells and their derived neuronal precursor cells and neurons, finding that these cell types are epigenetically characterized as having an early fetal age. Furthermore, while differentiation from iPSCs to neurons significantly increases epigenetic age, iPSC-neurons are still predicted as being fetal. Together our findings reiterate the need to better understand the limitations of existing epigenetic clocks for answering biological research questions and highlight a limitation of iPSC-neurons as a cellular model of age-related diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13041-021-00810-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8236187PMC
June 2021

The association of epigenetic clocks in brain tissue with brain pathologies and common aging phenotypes.

Neurobiol Dis 2021 Jun 19;157:105428. Epub 2021 Jun 19.

Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, Chicago, IL, United States of America; Department of Neurological Sciences, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL, United States of America.

Epigenetic clocks are calculated by combining DNA methylation states across select CpG sites to estimate biologic age, and have been noted as the most successful markers of biologic aging to date. Yet, limited research has considered epigenetic clocks calculated in brain tissue. We used DNA methylation states in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex specimens from 721 older participants of the Religious Orders Study and Rush Memory and Aging Project, to calculate DNA methylation age using four established epigenetic clocks: Hannum, Horvath, PhenoAge, GrimAge, and a new Cortical clock. The four established clocks were trained in blood samples (Hannum, PhenoAge, GrimAge) or using 51 human tissue and cell types (Horvath); the recent Cortical clock is the first trained in postmortem cortical tissue. Participants were recruited beginning in 1994 (Religious Orders Study) and 1997 (Memory and Aging Project), and followed annually with questionnaires and clinical evaluations; brain specimens were obtained for 80-90% of participants. Mean age at death was 88.0 (SD 6.7) years. We used linear regression, logistic regression, and linear mixed models, to examine relations of epigenetic clock ages to neuropathologic and clinical aging phenotypes, controlling for chronologic age, sex, education, and depressive symptomatology. Hannum, Horvath, PhenoAge and Cortical clock ages were related to pathologic diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (AD), as well as to Aβ load (a hallmark pathology of Alzheimer's disease). However, associations were substantially stronger for the Cortical than other clocks; for example, each standard deviation (SD) increase in Hannum, Horvath, and PhenoAge clock age was related to approximately 30% greater likelihood of pathologic AD (all p < 0.05), while each SD increase in Cortical age was related to 90% greater likelihood of pathologic AD (odds ratio = 1.91, 95% confidence interval 1.38, 2.62). Moreover, Cortical age was significantly related to other AD pathology (eg, mean tau tangle density, p = 0.003), and to odds of neocortical Lewy body pathology (for each SD increase in Cortical age, odds ratio = 2.00, 95% confidence 1.27, 3.17), although no clocks were related to cerebrovascular neuropathology. Cortical age was the only epigenetic clock significantly associated with the clinical phenotypes examined, from dementia to cognitive decline (5 specific cognitive systems, and a global cognitive measure averaging 17 tasks) to Parkinsonian signs. Overall, our findings provide evidence of the critical necessity for bespoke clocks of brain aging for advancing research to understand, and eventually prevent, neurodegenerative diseases of aging.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nbd.2021.105428DOI Listing
June 2021

Characterizing the properties of bisulfite sequencing data: maximizing power and sensitivity to identify between-group differences in DNA methylation.

BMC Genomics 2021 Jun 15;22(1):446. Epub 2021 Jun 15.

College of Medicine and Health, University of Exeter, Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Exeter, EX2 5DW, UK.

Background: The combination of sodium bisulfite treatment with highly-parallel sequencing is a common method for quantifying DNA methylation across the genome. The power to detect between-group differences in DNA methylation using bisulfite-sequencing approaches is influenced by both experimental (e.g. read depth, missing data and sample size) and biological (e.g. mean level of DNA methylation and difference between groups) parameters. There is, however, no consensus about the optimal thresholds for filtering bisulfite sequencing data with implications for the reproducibility of findings in epigenetic epidemiology.

Results: We used a large reduced representation bisulfite sequencing (RRBS) dataset to assess the distribution of read depth across DNA methylation sites and the extent of missing data. To investigate how various study variables influence power to identify DNA methylation differences between groups, we developed a framework for simulating bisulfite sequencing data. As expected, sequencing read depth, group size, and the magnitude of DNA methylation difference between groups all impacted upon statistical power. The influence on power was not dependent on one specific parameter, but reflected the combination of study-specific variables. As a resource to the community, we have developed a tool, POWEREDBiSeq, which utilizes our simulation framework to predict study-specific power for the identification of DNAm differences between groups, taking into account user-defined read depth filtering parameters and the minimum sample size per group.

Conclusions: Our data-driven approach highlights the importance of filtering bisulfite-sequencing data by minimum read depth and illustrates how the choice of threshold is influenced by the specific study design and the expected differences between groups being compared. The POWEREDBiSeq tool, which can be applied to different types of bisulfite sequencing data (e.g. RRBS, whole genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS), targeted bisulfite sequencing and amplicon-based bisulfite sequencing), can help users identify the level of data filtering needed to optimize power and aims to improve the reproducibility of bisulfite sequencing studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12864-021-07721-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8204428PMC
June 2021

A meta-analysis of epigenome-wide association studies in Alzheimer's disease highlights novel differentially methylated loci across cortex.

Nat Commun 2021 06 10;12(1):3517. Epub 2021 Jun 10.

University of Exeter Medical School, College of Medicine and Health, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK.

Epigenome-wide association studies of Alzheimer's disease have highlighted neuropathology-associated DNA methylation differences, although existing studies have been limited in sample size and utilized different brain regions. Here, we combine data from six DNA methylomic studies of Alzheimer's disease (N = 1453 unique individuals) to identify differential methylation associated with Braak stage in different brain regions and across cortex. We identify 236 CpGs in the prefrontal cortex, 95 CpGs in the temporal gyrus and ten CpGs in the entorhinal cortex at Bonferroni significance, with none in the cerebellum. Our cross-cortex meta-analysis (N = 1408 donors) identifies 220 CpGs associated with neuropathology, annotated to 121 genes, of which 84 genes have not been previously reported at this significance threshold. We have replicated our findings using two further DNA methylomic datasets consisting of a further >600 unique donors. The meta-analysis summary statistics are available in our online data resource ( www.epigenomicslab.com/ad-meta-analysis/ ).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-23243-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8192929PMC
June 2021

A central role for anterior cingulate cortex in the control of pathological aggression.

Curr Biol 2021 Jun 14;31(11):2321-2333.e5. Epub 2021 Apr 14.

Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboudumc, Nijmegen, the Netherlands; Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Radboudumc, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

Controlling aggression is a crucial skill in social species like rodents and humans and has been associated with anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Here, we directly link the failed regulation of aggression in BALB/cJ mice to ACC hypofunction. We first show that ACC in BALB/cJ mice is structurally degraded: neuron density is decreased, with pervasive neuron death and reactive astroglia. Gene-set enrichment analysis suggested that this process is driven by neuronal degeneration, which then triggers toxic astrogliosis. cFos expression across ACC indicated functional consequences: during aggressive encounters, ACC was engaged in control mice, but not BALB/cJ mice. Chemogenetically activating ACC during aggressive encounters drastically suppressed pathological aggression but left species-typical aggression intact. The network effects of our chemogenetic perturbation suggest that this behavioral rescue is mediated by suppression of amygdala and hypothalamus and activation of mediodorsal thalamus. Together, these findings highlight the central role of ACC in curbing pathological aggression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.03.062DOI Listing
June 2021

The histone modification H3K4me3 is altered at the locus in Alzheimer's disease brain.

Future Sci OA 2021 Feb 9;7(4):FSO665. Epub 2021 Feb 9.

University of Exeter Medical School, University of Exeter, Exeter EX2 5DW, UK.

Several epigenome-wide association studies of DNA methylation have highlighted altered DNA methylation in the gene in Alzheimer's disease (AD) brain samples. However, no study has specifically examined histone modifications in the disease. We use chromatin immunoprecipitation-qPCR to quantify tri-methylation at histone 3 lysine 4 (H3K4me3) and 27 (H3K27me3) in the gene in entorhinal cortex from donors with high (n = 59) or low (n = 29) Alzheimer's disease pathology. We demonstrate decreased levels of H3K4me3, a marker of active gene transcription, with no change in H3K27me3, a marker of inactive genes. H3K4me3 is negatively correlated with DNA methylation in specific regions of the gene. Our study suggests that the gene shows altered epigenetic marks indicative of reduced gene activation in Alzheimer's disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2144/fsoa-2020-0161DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8015672PMC
February 2021

Meta-analysis of genome-wide DNA methylation identifies shared associations across neurodegenerative disorders.

Genome Biol 2021 Mar 26;22(1):90. Epub 2021 Mar 26.

Centre for Clinical Research, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, 4019, Australia.

Background: People with neurodegenerative disorders show diverse clinical syndromes, genetic heterogeneity, and distinct brain pathological changes, but studies report overlap between these features. DNA methylation (DNAm) provides a way to explore this overlap and heterogeneity as it is determined by the combined effects of genetic variation and the environment. In this study, we aim to identify shared blood DNAm differences between controls and people with Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease.

Results: We use a mixed-linear model method (MOMENT) that accounts for the effect of (un)known confounders, to test for the association of each DNAm site with each disorder. While only three probes are found to be genome-wide significant in each MOMENT association analysis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinson's disease (and none with Alzheimer's disease), a fixed-effects meta-analysis of the three disorders results in 12 genome-wide significant differentially methylated positions. Predicted immune cell-type proportions are disrupted across all neurodegenerative disorders. Protein inflammatory markers are correlated with profile sum-scores derived from disease-associated immune cell-type proportions in a healthy aging cohort. In contrast, they are not correlated with MOMENT DNAm-derived profile sum-scores, calculated using effect sizes of the 12 differentially methylated positions as weights.

Conclusions: We identify shared differentially methylated positions in whole blood between neurodegenerative disorders that point to shared pathogenic mechanisms. These shared differentially methylated positions may reflect causes or consequences of disease, but they are unlikely to reflect cell-type proportion differences.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13059-021-02275-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8004462PMC
March 2021

Assessing the co-variability of DNA methylation across peripheral cells and tissues: Implications for the interpretation of findings in epigenetic epidemiology.

PLoS Genet 2021 03 19;17(3):e1009443. Epub 2021 Mar 19.

University of Exeter Medical School, University of Exeter Medical School, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom.

Most epigenome-wide association studies (EWAS) quantify DNA methylation (DNAm) in peripheral tissues such as whole blood to identify positions in the genome where variation is statistically associated with a trait or exposure. As whole blood comprises a mix of cell types, it is unclear whether trait-associated DNAm variation is specific to an individual cellular population. We collected three peripheral tissues (whole blood, buccal epithelial and nasal epithelial cells) from thirty individuals. Whole blood samples were subsequently processed using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) to purify five constituent cell-types (monocytes, granulocytes, CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells, and B cells). DNAm was profiled in all eight sample-types from each individual using the Illumina EPIC array. We identified significant differences in both the level and variability of DNAm between different sample types, and DNAm data-derived estimates of age and smoking were found to differ dramatically across sample types from the same individual. We found that for the majority of loci variation in DNAm in individual blood cell types was only weakly predictive of variance in DNAm measured in whole blood, although the proportion of variance explained was greater than that explained by either buccal or nasal epithelial samples. Covariation across sample types was much higher for DNAm sites influenced by genetic factors. Overall, we observe that DNAm variation in whole blood is additively influenced by a combination of the major blood cell types. For a subset of sites, however, variable DNAm detected in whole blood can be attributed to variation in a single blood cell type providing potential mechanistic insight about EWAS findings. Our results suggest that associations between whole blood DNAm and traits or exposures reflect differences in multiple cell types and our data will facilitate the interpretation of findings in epigenetic epidemiology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1009443DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8011804PMC
March 2021

DNA methylation meta-analysis reveals cellular alterations in psychosis and markers of treatment-resistant schizophrenia.

Elife 2021 Feb 26;10. Epub 2021 Feb 26.

Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Jena University Hospital, Jena, Germany.

We performed a systematic analysis of blood DNA methylation profiles from 4483 participants from seven independent cohorts identifying differentially methylated positions (DMPs) associated with psychosis, schizophrenia, and treatment-resistant schizophrenia. Psychosis cases were characterized by significant differences in measures of blood cell proportions and elevated smoking exposure derived from the DNA methylation data, with the largest differences seen in treatment-resistant schizophrenia patients. We implemented a stringent pipeline to meta-analyze epigenome-wide association study (EWAS) results across datasets, identifying 95 DMPs associated with psychosis and 1048 DMPs associated with schizophrenia, with evidence of colocalization to regions nominated by genetic association studies of disease. Many schizophrenia-associated DNA methylation differences were only present in patients with treatment-resistant schizophrenia, potentially reflecting exposure to the atypical antipsychotic clozapine. Our results highlight how DNA methylation data can be leveraged to identify physiological (e.g., differential cell counts) and environmental (e.g., smoking) factors associated with psychosis and molecular biomarkers of treatment-resistant schizophrenia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.58430DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8009672PMC
February 2021

Cross-reactive probes on Illumina DNA methylation arrays: a large study on ALS shows that a cautionary approach is warranted in interpreting epigenome-wide association studies.

NAR Genom Bioinform 2020 Dec 17;2(4):lqaa105. Epub 2020 Dec 17.

Department of Neurology, UMC Utrecht Brain Center, 3584 CG, Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Illumina DNA methylation arrays are a widely used tool for performing genome-wide DNA methylation analyses. However, measurements obtained from these arrays may be affected by technical artefacts that result in spurious associations if left unchecked. Cross-reactivity represents one of the major challenges, meaning that probes may map to multiple regions in the genome. Although several studies have reported on this issue, few studies have empirically examined the impact of cross-reactivity in an epigenome-wide association study (EWAS). In this paper, we report on cross-reactivity issues that we discovered in a large EWAS on the presence of the repeat expansion in ALS patients. Specifically, we found that that the majority of the significant probes inadvertently cross-hybridized to the locus. Importantly, these probes were not flagged as cross-reactive in previous studies, leading to novel insights into the extent to which cross-reactivity can impact EWAS. Our findings are particularly relevant for epigenetic studies into diseases associated with repeat expansions and other types of structural variation. More generally however, considering that most spurious associations were not excluded based on pre-defined sets of cross-reactive probes, we believe that the presented data-driven flag and consider approach is relevant for any type of EWAS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/nargab/lqaa105DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7745769PMC
December 2020

DNA methylation signatures of aggression and closely related constructs: A meta-analysis of epigenome-wide studies across the lifespan.

Mol Psychiatry 2021 Jan 8. Epub 2021 Jan 8.

Department of Clinical Chemistry, Fimlab Laboratories, and Finnish Cardiovascular Research Center-Tampere, Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Tampere University, Tampere, 33520, Finland.

DNA methylation profiles of aggressive behavior may capture lifetime cumulative effects of genetic, stochastic, and environmental influences associated with aggression. Here, we report the first large meta-analysis of epigenome-wide association studies (EWAS) of aggressive behavior (N = 15,324 participants). In peripheral blood samples of 14,434 participants from 18 cohorts with mean ages ranging from 7 to 68 years, 13 methylation sites were significantly associated with aggression (alpha = 1.2 × 10; Bonferroni correction). In cord blood samples of 2425 children from five cohorts with aggression assessed at mean ages ranging from 4 to 7 years, 83% of these sites showed the same direction of association with childhood aggression (r = 0.74, p = 0.006) but no epigenome-wide significant sites were found. Top-sites (48 at a false discovery rate of 5% in the peripheral blood meta-analysis or in a combined meta-analysis of peripheral blood and cord blood) have been associated with chemical exposures, smoking, cognition, metabolic traits, and genetic variation (mQTLs). Three genes whose expression levels were associated with top-sites were previously linked to schizophrenia and general risk tolerance. At six CpGs, DNA methylation variation in blood mirrors variation in the brain. On average 44% (range = 3-82%) of the aggression-methylation association was explained by current and former smoking and BMI. These findings point at loci that are sensitive to chemical exposures with potential implications for neuronal functions. We hope these results to be a starting point for studies leading to applications as peripheral biomarkers and to reveal causal relationships with aggression and related traits.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41380-020-00987-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8263810PMC
January 2021

Genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease influences neuropathology via multiple biological pathways.

Brain Commun 2020 12;2(2):fcaa167. Epub 2020 Oct 12.

College of Medicine and Health, University of Exeter, Exeter, Devon, EX2 5DW, UK.

Alzheimer's disease is a highly heritable, common neurodegenerative disease characterized neuropathologically by the accumulation of β-amyloid plaques and tau-containing neurofibrillary tangles. In addition to the well-established risk associated with the locus, there has been considerable success in identifying additional genetic variants associated with Alzheimer's disease. Major challenges in understanding how genetic risk influences the development of Alzheimer's disease are clinical and neuropathological heterogeneity, and the high level of accompanying comorbidities. We report a multimodal analysis integrating longitudinal clinical and cognitive assessment with neuropathological data collected as part of the Brains for Dementia Research study to understand how genetic risk factors for Alzheimer's disease influence the development of neuropathology and clinical performance. Six hundred and ninety-three donors in the Brains for Dementia Research cohort with genetic data, semi-quantitative neuropathology measurements, cognitive assessments and established diagnostic criteria were included in this study. We tested the association of genotype and Alzheimer's disease polygenic risk score-a quantitative measure of genetic burden-with survival, four common neuropathological features in Alzheimer's disease brains (neurofibrillary tangles, β-amyloid plaques, Lewy bodies and transactive response DNA-binding protein 43 proteinopathy), clinical status (clinical dementia rating) and cognitive performance (Mini-Mental State Exam, Montreal Cognitive Assessment). The ε4 allele was significantly associated with younger age of death in the Brains for Dementia Research cohort. Our analyses of neuropathology highlighted two independent pathways from ε4, one where β-amyloid accumulation co-occurs with the development of tauopathy, and a second characterized by direct effects on tauopathy independent of β-amyloidosis. Although we also detected association between ε4 and dementia status and cognitive performance, these were all mediated by tauopathy, highlighting that they are a consequence of the neuropathological changes. Analyses of polygenic risk score identified associations with tauopathy and β-amyloidosis, which appeared to have both shared and unique contributions, suggesting that different genetic variants associated with Alzheimer's disease affect different features of neuropathology to different degrees. Taken together, our results provide insight into how genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease influences both the clinical and pathological features of dementia, increasing our understanding about the interplay between genotype and other genetic risk factors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/braincomms/fcaa167DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7750986PMC
October 2020

DNA methylation signatures of adolescent victimization: analysis of a longitudinal monozygotic twin sample.

Epigenetics 2020 Dec 29:1-18. Epub 2020 Dec 29.

King's College London, Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, London, UK.

Accumulating evidence suggests that individuals exposed to victimization at key developmental stages may have different epigenetic fingerprints compared to those exposed to no/minimal stressful events, however results are inconclusive. This study aimed to strengthen causal inference regarding the impact of adolescent victimization on the epigenome by controlling for genetic variation, age, gender, and shared environmental exposures. We conducted longitudinal epigenome-wide association analyses (EWAS) on DNA methylation (DNAm) profiles of 118 monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs from the Environmental Risk study with and without severe adolescent victimization generated using buccal DNA collected at ages 5, 10 and 18, and the Illumina EPIC array. Additionally, we performed cross-sectional EWAS on age-18 blood and buccal DNA from the same individuals to elucidate tissue-specific signatures of severe adolescent victimization. Our analyses identified 20 suggestive differentially methylated positions (DMPs) ( < 5e-05), with altered DNAm trajectories between ages 10-18 associated with severe adolescent victimization (= -5.5%-5.3%). Age-18 cross-sectional analyses revealed 72 blood (= -2.2%-3.4%) and 42 buccal (= -3.6%-4.6%) suggestive severe adolescent victimization-associated DMPs, with some evidence of convergent signals between these two tissue types. Downstream regional analysis identified significant differentially methylated regions (DMRs) in and (Šidák e-09 and 4.07e-06), and one upstream of (Šidák 2.80e-06) in age-18 blood and buccal EWAS, respectively. Our study represents the first longitudinal MZ twin analysis of DNAm and severe adolescent victimization, providing initial evidence for altered DNA methylomic signatures in individuals exposed to adolescent victimization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15592294.2020.1853317DOI Listing
December 2020

Recalibrating the epigenetic clock: implications for assessing biological age in the human cortex.

Brain 2020 12;143(12):3763-3775

University of Exeter Medical School, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK.

Human DNA methylation data have been used to develop biomarkers of ageing, referred to as 'epigenetic clocks', which have been widely used to identify differences between chronological age and biological age in health and disease including neurodegeneration, dementia and other brain phenotypes. Existing DNA methylation clocks have been shown to be highly accurate in blood but are less precise when used in older samples or in tissue types not included in training the model, including brain. We aimed to develop a novel epigenetic clock that performs optimally in human cortex tissue and has the potential to identify phenotypes associated with biological ageing in the brain. We generated an extensive dataset of human cortex DNA methylation data spanning the life course (n = 1397, ages = 1 to 108 years). This dataset was split into 'training' and 'testing' samples (training: n = 1047; testing: n = 350). DNA methylation age estimators were derived using a transformed version of chronological age on DNA methylation at specific sites using elastic net regression, a supervised machine learning method. The cortical clock was subsequently validated in a novel independent human cortex dataset (n = 1221, ages = 41 to 104 years) and tested for specificity in a large whole blood dataset (n = 1175, ages = 28 to 98 years). We identified a set of 347 DNA methylation sites that, in combination, optimally predict age in the human cortex. The sum of DNA methylation levels at these sites weighted by their regression coefficients provide the cortical DNA methylation clock age estimate. The novel clock dramatically outperformed previously reported clocks in additional cortical datasets. Our findings suggest that previous associations between predicted DNA methylation age and neurodegenerative phenotypes might represent false positives resulting from clocks not robustly calibrated to the tissue being tested and for phenotypes that become manifest in older ages. The age distribution and tissue type of samples included in training datasets need to be considered when building and applying epigenetic clock algorithms to human epidemiological or disease cohorts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awaa334DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7805794PMC
December 2020

Patterns of Reliability: Assessing the Reproducibility and Integrity of DNA Methylation Measurement.

Patterns (N Y) 2020 05 23;1(2):100014. Epub 2020 Apr 23.

Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, Grey Building, 2020 West Main Street, Suite 201, Durham, NC 27705, USA.

DNA methylation plays an important role in both normal human development and risk of disease. The most utilized method of assessing DNA methylation uses BeadChips, generating an epigenome-wide "snapshot" of >450,000 observations (probe measurements) per assay. However, the reliability of each of these measurements is not equal, and little consideration is paid to consequences for research. We correlated repeat measurements of the same DNA samples using the Illumina HumanMethylation450K and the Infinium MethylationEPIC BeadChips in 350 blood DNA samples. Probes that were reliably measured were more heritable and showed consistent associations with environmental exposures, gene expression, and greater cross-tissue concordance. Unreliable probes were less replicable and generated an unknown volume of false negatives. This serves as a lesson for working with DNA methylation data, but the lessons are equally applicable to working with other data: as we advance toward generating increasingly greater volumes of data, failure to document reliability risks harming reproducibility.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.patter.2020.100014DOI Listing
May 2020

Integrative genomics identifies a convergent molecular subtype that links epigenomic with transcriptomic differences in autism.

Nat Commun 2020 09 25;11(1):4873. Epub 2020 Sep 25.

Program in Neurogenetics, Department of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, 90095, USA.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a phenotypically and genetically heterogeneous neurodevelopmental disorder. Despite this heterogeneity, previous studies have shown patterns of molecular convergence in post-mortem brain tissue from autistic subjects. Here, we integrate genome-wide measures of mRNA expression, miRNA expression, DNA methylation, and histone acetylation from ASD and control brains to identify a convergent molecular subtype of ASD with shared dysregulation across both the epigenome and transcriptome. Focusing on this convergent subtype, we substantially expand the repertoire of differentially expressed genes in ASD and identify a component of upregulated immune processes that are associated with hypomethylation. We utilize eQTL and chromosome conformation datasets to link differentially acetylated regions with their cognate genes and identify an enrichment of ASD genetic risk variants in hyperacetylated noncoding regulatory regions linked to neuronal genes. These findings help elucidate how diverse genetic risk factors converge onto specific molecular processes in ASD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-18526-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7519165PMC
September 2020

Non-neuronal expression of SARS-CoV-2 entry genes in the olfactory system suggests mechanisms underlying COVID-19-associated anosmia.

Sci Adv 2020 07 24;6(31). Epub 2020 Jul 24.

Harvard Medical School Department of Neurobiology, Boston MA 02115 USA.

Altered olfactory function is a common symptom of COVID-19, but its etiology is unknown. A key question is whether SARS-CoV-2 (CoV-2) - the causal agent in COVID-19 - affects olfaction directly, by infecting olfactory sensory neurons or their targets in the olfactory bulb, or indirectly, through perturbation of supporting cells. Here we identify cell types in the olfactory epithelium and olfactory bulb that express SARS-CoV-2 cell entry molecules. Bulk sequencing demonstrated that mouse, non-human primate and human olfactory mucosa expresses two key genes involved in CoV-2 entry, ACE2 and TMPRSS2. However, single cell sequencing revealed that ACE2 is expressed in support cells, stem cells, and perivascular cells, rather than in neurons. Immunostaining confirmed these results and revealed pervasive expression of ACE2 protein in dorsally-located olfactory epithelial sustentacular cells and olfactory bulb pericytes in the mouse. These findings suggest that CoV-2 infection of non-neuronal cell types leads to anosmia and related disturbances in odor perception in COVID-19 patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abc5801DOI Listing
July 2020

Patterns of Reliability: Assessing the Reproducibility and Integrity of DNA Methylation Measurement.

Patterns (N Y) 2020 05 23;1(2). Epub 2020 Apr 23.

Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, Grey Building, 2020 West Main Street, Suite 201, Durham, NC 27705, USA.

DNA methylation plays an important role in both normal human development and risk of disease. The most utilized method of assessing DNA methylation uses BeadChips, generating an epigenome-wide "snapshot" of >450,000 observations (probe measurements) per assay. However, the reliability of each of these measurements is not equal, and little consideration is paid to consequences for research. We correlated repeat measurements of the same DNA samples using the Illumina HumanMethylation450K and the Infinium MethylationEPIC BeadChips in 350 blood DNA samples. Probes that were reliably measured were more heritable and showed consistent associations with environmental exposures, gene expression, and greater cross-tissue concordance. Unreliable probes were less replicable and generated an unknown volume of false negatives. This serves as a lesson for working with DNA methylation data, but the lessons are equally applicable to working with other data: as we advance toward generating increasingly greater volumes of data, failure to document reliability risks harming reproducibility.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7467214PMC
May 2020

Whole transcriptome in silico screening implicates cardiovascular and infectious disease in the mechanism of action underlying atypical antipsychotic side effects.

Alzheimers Dement (N Y) 2020 24;6(1):e12078. Epub 2020 Aug 24.

College of Medicine and Health University of Exeter Medical School University of Exeter Exeter UK.

Background: Stroke/thromboembolic events, infections, and death are all significantly increased by antipsychotics in dementia but little is known about why they can be harmful. Using a novel application of a drug repurposing paradigm, we aimed to identify potential mechanisms underlying adverse events.

Methods: Whole transcriptome signatures were generated for SH-SY5Y cells treated with amisulpride, risperidone, and volinanserin using RNA sequencing. Bioinformatic analysis was performed that scored the association between antipsychotic signatures and expression data from 415,252 samples in the National Center for Biotechnology Information Gene Expression Omnibus (NCBI GEO) repository.

Results: Atherosclerosis, venous thromboembolism, and influenza NCBI GEO-derived samples scored positively against antipsychotic signatures. Pathways enriched in antipsychotic signatures were linked to the cardiovascular and immune systems (eg, brain derived neurotrophic factor [BDNF], platelet derived growth factor receptor [PDGFR]-beta, tumor necrosis factor [TNF], transforming growth factor [TGF]-beta, selenoamino acid metabolism, and influenza infection).

Conclusions: These findings for the first time mechanistically link antipsychotics to specific cardiovascular and infectious diseases which are known side effects of their use in dementia, providing new information to explain related adverse events.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/trc2.12078DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7443741PMC
August 2020

An epigenome-wide association study of Alzheimer's disease blood highlights robust DNA hypermethylation in the HOXB6 gene.

Neurobiol Aging 2020 11 3;95:26-45. Epub 2020 Jul 3.

College of Medicine and Health, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK. Electronic address:

A growing number of epigenome-wide association studies have demonstrated a role for DNA methylation in the brain in Alzheimer's disease. With the aim of exploring peripheral biomarker potential, we have examined DNA methylation patterns in whole blood collected from 284 individuals in the AddNeuroMed study, which included 89 nondemented controls, 86 patients with Alzheimer's disease, and 109 individuals with mild cognitive impairment, including 38 individuals who progressed to Alzheimer's disease within 1 year. We identified significant differentially methylated regions, including 12 adjacent hypermethylated probes in the HOXB6 gene in Alzheimer's disease, which we validated using pyrosequencing. Using weighted gene correlation network analysis, we identified comethylated modules of genes that were associated with key variables such as APOE genotype and diagnosis. In summary, this study represents the first large-scale epigenome-wide association study of Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment using blood. We highlight the differences in various loci and pathways in early disease, suggesting that these patterns relate to cognitive decline at an early stage.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2020.06.023DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7649340PMC
November 2020

Tissue-Biased Expansion of DNMT3A-Mutant Clones in a Mosaic Individual Is Associated with Conserved Epigenetic Erosion.

Cell Stem Cell 2020 08 15;27(2):326-335.e4. Epub 2020 Jul 15.

Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA; Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA; Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA. Electronic address:

DNA methyltransferase 3A (DNMT3A) is the most commonly mutated gene in clonal hematopoiesis (CH). Somatic DNMT3A mutations arise in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) many years before malignancies develop, but difficulties in comparing their impact before malignancy with wild-type cells have limited the understanding of their contributions to transformation. To circumvent this limitation, we derived normal and DNMT3A mutant lymphoblastoid cell lines from a germline mosaic individual in whom these cells co-existed for nearly 6 decades. Mutant cells dominated the blood system, but not other tissues. Deep sequencing revealed similar mutational burdens and signatures in normal and mutant clones, while epigenetic profiling uncovered the focal erosion of DNA methylation at oncogenic regulatory regions in mutant clones. These regions overlapped with those sensitive to DNMT3A loss after DNMT3A ablation in HSCs and in leukemia samples. These results suggest that DNMT3A maintains a conserved DNA methylation pattern, the erosion of which provides a distinct competitive advantage to hematopoietic cells.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.stem.2020.06.018DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7494054PMC
August 2020

The molecular etiology of Alzheimer's disease.

Brain Pathol 2020 09;30(5):964-965

University of Exeter Medical School, Exeter University, Exeter, UK.

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a growing global healthcare epidemic. Owing to advances in technology, genome-scale studies of various layers of molecular information have been undertaken in recent years and robust variation in key loci have now been published and reproduced by others. This mini-symposium highlights four key areas of current research in the field of molecular biology in AD, including articles focused on large-scale genomic profiling, epigenetic research, integrative multi-omic approaches and how these can be appropriately modeled to address reverse causality. This mini-symposium provides a timely update on research focused on elucidating the molecular etiology of AD to date and highlights new methodological advances that could enable neuroscientists to identify novel therapeutic targets.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bpa.12879DOI Listing
September 2020

Epigenome-wide association study of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in adults.

Transl Psychiatry 2020 06 19;10(1):199. Epub 2020 Jun 19.

Psychiatric Genetics Unit, Group of Psychiatry, Mental Health and Addiction, Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a highly heritable neurodevelopmental disorder that often persists into adulthood. There is growing evidence that epigenetic dysregulation participates in ADHD. Given that only a limited number of epigenome-wide association studies (EWASs) of ADHD have been conducted so far and they have mainly focused on pediatric and population-based samples, we performed an EWAS in a clinical sample of adults with ADHD. We report one CpG site and four regions differentially methylated between patients and controls, which are located in or near genes previously involved in autoimmune diseases, cancer or neuroticism. Our sensitivity analyses indicate that smoking status is not responsible for these results and that polygenic risk burden for ADHD does not greatly impact the signatures identified. Additionally, we show an overlap of our EWAS findings with genetic signatures previously described for ADHD and with epigenetic signatures for smoking behavior and maternal smoking. These findings support a role of DNA methylation in ADHD and emphasize the need for additional efforts in larger samples to clarify the role of epigenetic mechanisms on ADHD across the lifespan.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41398-020-0860-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7305172PMC
June 2020

Association of Neighborhood Disadvantage in Childhood With DNA Methylation in Young Adulthood.

JAMA Netw Open 2020 06 1;3(6):e206095. Epub 2020 Jun 1.

Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

Importance: DNA methylation has been proposed as an epigenetic mechanism by which the childhood neighborhood environment may have implications for the genome that compromise adult health.

Objective: To ascertain whether childhood neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage is associated with differences in DNA methylation by age 18 years.

Design, Setting, And Participants: This longitudinal cohort study analyzed data from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, a nationally representative birth cohort of children born between 1994 and 1995 in England and Wales and followed up from age 5 to 18 years. Data analysis was performed from March 15, 2019, to June 30, 2019.

Exposures: High-resolution neighborhood data (indexing deprivation, dilapidation, disconnection, and dangerousness) collected across childhood.

Main Outcomes And Measures: DNA methylation in whole blood was drawn at age 18 years. Associations between neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage and methylation were tested using 3 prespecified approaches: (1) testing probes annotated to candidate genes involved in biological responses to growing up in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods and investigated in previous epigenetic research (stress reactivity-related and inflammation-related genes), (2) polyepigenetic scores indexing differential methylation in phenotypes associated with growing up in disadvantaged neighborhoods (obesity, inflammation, and smoking), and (3) a theory-free epigenome-wide association study.

Results: A total of 1619 participants (806 female individuals [50%]) had complete neighborhood and DNA methylation data. Children raised in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods exhibited differential DNA methylation in genes involved in inflammation (β = 0.12; 95% CI, 0.06-0.19; P < .001) and smoking (β = 0.18; 95% CI, 0.11-0.25; P < .001) but not obesity (β = 0.05; 95% CI, -0.01 to 0.11; P = .12). An epigenome-wide association study identified multiple CpG sites at an arraywide significance level of P < 1.16 × 10-7 in genes involved in the metabolism of hydrocarbons. Associations between neighborhood disadvantage and methylation were small but robust to family-level socioeconomic factors and to individual-level tobacco smoking.

Conclusions And Relevance: Children raised in more socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods appeared to enter young adulthood epigenetically distinct from their less disadvantaged peers. This finding suggests that epigenetic regulation may be a mechanism by which the childhood neighborhood environment alters adult health.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.6095DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7265095PMC
June 2020

Quantification of the pace of biological aging in humans through a blood test, the DunedinPoAm DNA methylation algorithm.

Elife 2020 05 5;9. Epub 2020 May 5.

Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, United Kingdom.

Biological aging is the gradual, progressive decline in system integrity that occurs with advancing chronological age, causing morbidity and disability. Measurements of the pace of aging are needed as surrogate endpoints in trials of therapies designed to prevent disease by slowing biological aging. We report a blood-DNA-methylation measure that is sensitive to variation in pace of biological aging among individuals born the same year. We first modeled change-over-time in 18 biomarkers tracking organ-system integrity across 12 years of follow-up in n = 954 members of the Dunedin Study born in 1972-1973. Rates of change in each biomarker over ages 26-38 years were composited to form a measure of aging-related decline, termed Pace-of-Aging. Elastic-net regression was used to develop a DNA-methylation predictor of Pace-of-Aging, called DunedinPoAm for Dunedin(P)ace(o)f(A)ging(m)ethylation. Validation analysis in cohort studies and the CALERIE trial provide proof-of-principle for DunedinPoAm as a single-time-point measure of a person's pace of biological aging.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.54870DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7282814PMC
May 2020

Major surgery induces acute changes in measured DNA methylation associated with immune response pathways.

Sci Rep 2020 04 1;10(1):5743. Epub 2020 Apr 1.

University of Exeter Medical School, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom.

Surgery is an invasive procedure evoking acute inflammatory and immune responses that can influence risk for postoperative complications including cognitive dysfunction and delirium. Although the specific mechanisms driving these responses have not been well-characterized, they are hypothesized to involve the epigenetic regulation of gene expression. We quantified genome-wide levels of DNA methylation in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) longitudinally collected from a cohort of elderly patients undergoing major surgery, comparing samples collected at baseline to those collected immediately post-operatively and at discharge from hospital. We identified acute changes in measured DNA methylation at sites annotated to immune system genes, paralleling changes in serum-levels of markers including C-reactive protein (CRP) and Interleukin 6 (IL-6) measured in the same individuals. Many of the observed changes in measured DNA methylation were consistent across different types of major surgery, although there was notable heterogeneity between surgery types at certain loci. The acute changes in measured DNA methylation induced by surgery are relatively stable in the post-operative period, generally persisting until discharge from hospital. Our results highlight the dramatic alterations in gene regulation induced by invasive surgery, primarily reflecting upregulation of the immune system in response to trauma, wound healing and anaesthesia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-62262-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7113299PMC
April 2020

Significant out-of-sample classification from methylation profile scoring for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

NPJ Genom Med 2020 27;5:10. Epub 2020 Feb 27.

4Centre for Motor Neuron Disease Research, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109 Australia.

We conducted DNA methylation association analyses using Illumina 450K data from whole blood for an Australian amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) case-control cohort (782 cases and 613 controls). Analyses used mixed linear models as implemented in the OSCA software. We found a significantly higher proportion of neutrophils in cases compared to controls which replicated in an independent cohort from the Netherlands (1159 cases and 637 controls). The OSCA MOMENT linear mixed model has been shown in simulations to best account for confounders. When combined in a methylation profile score, the 25 most-associated probes identified by MOMENT significantly classified case-control status in the Netherlands sample (area under the curve, AUC = 0.65, CI = [0.62-0.68],  = 8.3 × 10). The maximum AUC achieved was 0.69 (CI = [0.66-0.71],  = 4.3 × 10) when cell-type proportion was included in the predictor.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41525-020-0118-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7046630PMC
February 2020

Genome-Wide DNA Methylation Patterns in Persistent Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and in Association With Impulsive and Callous Traits.

Front Genet 2020 31;11:16. Epub 2020 Jan 31.

Department of Human Genetics, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, Netherlands.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that often persists into adulthood. ADHD and related personality traits, such as impulsivity and callousness, are caused by genetic and environmental factors and their interplay. Epigenetic modifications of DNA, including methylation, are thought to mediate between such factors and behavior and may behave as biomarkers for disorders. Here, we set out to study DNA methylation in persistent ADHD and related traits. We performed epigenome-wide association studies (EWASs) on peripheral whole blood from participants in the NeuroIMAGE study (age range 12-23 years). We compared participants with persistent ADHD (n = 35) with healthy controls (n = 19) and with participants with remittent ADHD (n = 19). Additionally, we performed EWASs of impulsive and callous traits derived from the Conners Parent Rating Scale and the Callous-Unemotional Inventory, respectively, across all participants. For every EWAS, the linear regression model analyzed included covariates for age, sex, smoking scores, and surrogate variables reflecting blood cell type composition and genetic background. We observed no epigenome-wide significant differences in single CpG site methylation between participants with persistent ADHD and healthy controls or participants with remittent ADHD. However, epigenome-wide analysis of differentially methylated regions provided significant findings showing that hypermethylated regions in the and genes were associated with ADHD persistence compared to ADHD remittance (p = 1.68 * 10 and p = 9.06 * 10, respectively); both genes are involved in cholesterol signaling. Both findings appeared to be linked to genetic variation in cis. We found neither significant epigenome-wide single CpG sites nor regions associated with impulsive and callous traits; the top-hits from these analyses were annotated to genes involved in neurotransmitter release and the regulation of the biological clock. No link to genetic variation was observed for these findings, which thus might reflect environmental influences. In conclusion, in this pilot study with a small sample size, we observed several DNA-methylation-disorder/trait associations of potential significance for ADHD and the related behavioral traits. Although we do not wish to draw conclusions before replication in larger, independent samples, cholesterol signaling and metabolism may be of relevance for the onset and/or persistence of ADHD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2020.00016DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7005250PMC
January 2020

Genome-Wide DNA Methylation Patterns in Persistent Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and in Association With Impulsive and Callous Traits.

Front Genet 2020 31;11:16. Epub 2020 Jan 31.

Department of Human Genetics, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, Netherlands.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that often persists into adulthood. ADHD and related personality traits, such as impulsivity and callousness, are caused by genetic and environmental factors and their interplay. Epigenetic modifications of DNA, including methylation, are thought to mediate between such factors and behavior and may behave as biomarkers for disorders. Here, we set out to study DNA methylation in persistent ADHD and related traits. We performed epigenome-wide association studies (EWASs) on peripheral whole blood from participants in the NeuroIMAGE study (age range 12-23 years). We compared participants with persistent ADHD (n = 35) with healthy controls (n = 19) and with participants with remittent ADHD (n = 19). Additionally, we performed EWASs of impulsive and callous traits derived from the Conners Parent Rating Scale and the Callous-Unemotional Inventory, respectively, across all participants. For every EWAS, the linear regression model analyzed included covariates for age, sex, smoking scores, and surrogate variables reflecting blood cell type composition and genetic background. We observed no epigenome-wide significant differences in single CpG site methylation between participants with persistent ADHD and healthy controls or participants with remittent ADHD. However, epigenome-wide analysis of differentially methylated regions provided significant findings showing that hypermethylated regions in the and genes were associated with ADHD persistence compared to ADHD remittance (p = 1.68 * 10 and p = 9.06 * 10, respectively); both genes are involved in cholesterol signaling. Both findings appeared to be linked to genetic variation in cis. We found neither significant epigenome-wide single CpG sites nor regions associated with impulsive and callous traits; the top-hits from these analyses were annotated to genes involved in neurotransmitter release and the regulation of the biological clock. No link to genetic variation was observed for these findings, which thus might reflect environmental influences. In conclusion, in this pilot study with a small sample size, we observed several DNA-methylation-disorder/trait associations of potential significance for ADHD and the related behavioral traits. Although we do not wish to draw conclusions before replication in larger, independent samples, cholesterol signaling and metabolism may be of relevance for the onset and/or persistence of ADHD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2020.00016DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7005250PMC
January 2020