Epigenome-wide DNA methylation association study of circulating IgE levels identifies novel targets for asthma.
BACKGROUND: Identifying novel epigenetic signatures associated with serum immunoglobulin E (IgE) may improve our understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying asthma and IgE-mediated diseases.
METHODS: We performed an epigenome-wide association study using whole blood from Framingham Heart Study (FHS; n = 3,471, 46% females) participants and validated results using the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP; n = 674, 39% females) and the Genetic Epidemiology of Asthma in Costa Rica Study (CRA; n = 787, 41% females). Using the closest gene to each IgE-associated CpG, we highlighted biologically plausible pathways underlying IgE regulation and analyzed the transcription patterns linked to IgE-associated CpGs (expression quantitative trait methylation loci; eQTMs). Using prior UK Biobank summary data from genome-wide association studies of asthma and allergy, we performed Mendelian randomization (MR) for causal inference testing using the IgE-associated CpGs from FHS with methylation quantitative trait loci (mQTLs) as instrumental variables.
FINDINGS: We identified 490 statistically significant differentially methylated CpGs associated with IgE in FHS, of which 193 (39.3%) replicated in CAMP and CRA (FDR < 0.05). Gene ontology analysis revealed enrichment in pathways related to transcription factor binding, asthma, and other immunological processes. eQTM analysis identified 124 cis-eQTMs for 106 expressed genes (FDR < 0.05). MR in combination with drug-target analysis revealed CTSB and USP20 as putatively causal regulators of IgE levels (Bonferroni adjusted P < 7.94E-04) that can be explored as potential therapeutic targets.
INTERPRETATION: By integrating eQTM and MR analyses in general and clinical asthma populations, our findings provide a deeper understanding of the multidimensional inter-relations of DNA methylation, gene expression, and IgE levels.
FUNDING: US NIH/NHLBI grants: P01HL132825, K99HL159234. N01-HC-25195 and HHSN268201500001I.
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