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Social Factors and Leukocyte DNA Methylation of Repetitive Sequences: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis

Subramanyam, Malavika A.; Diez-Roux, Ana V.; Pilsner, J. Richard; Villamor, Eduardo; Donohue, Kathleen M.; Liu, Yongmei; Jenny, Nancy S.

Epigenetic changes are a potential mechanism contributing to race/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in health. However, there is scant evidence of the race/ethnic and socioeconomic patterning of epigenetic marks. We used data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis Stress Study (N = 988) to describe age- and gender- independent associations of race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status (SES) with methylation of Alu and LINE-1 repetitive elements in leukocyte DNA. Mean Alu and Line 1 methylation in the full sample were 24% and 81% respectively. In multivariable linear regression models, African-Americans had 0.27% (p<0.01) and Hispanics 0.20% (p<0.05) lower Alu methylation than whites. In contrast, African-Americans had 0.41% (p<0.01) and Hispanics 0.39% (p<0.01) higher LINE-1 methylation than whites. These associations remained after adjustment for SES. In addition, a one standard deviation higher wealth was associated with 0.09% (p<0.01) higher Alu and 0.15% (p<0.01) lower LINE-1 methylation in age- and gender- adjusted models. Additional adjustment for race/ethnicity did not alter this pattern. No associations were observed with income, education or childhood SES. Our findings, from a large community-based sample, suggest that DNA methylation is socially patterned. Future research, including studies of gene-specific methylation, is needed to understand better the opposing associations of Alu and LINE-1 methylation with race/ethnicity and wealth as well as the extent to which small methylation changes in these sequences may influence disparities in health.

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Academic Units
Medicine
Publisher
Public Library of Science
Published Here
February 27, 2017
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