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Racial differences in gene-specific DNA methylation levels are present at birth†
Article first published online: 9 FEB 2011
Copyright © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology
Special Issue: Epigenetic Processes in Development
Volume 91, Issue 8, pages 728–736, August 2011
How to Cite
Adkins, R. M., Krushkal, J., Tylavsky, F. A. and Thomas, F. (2011), Racial differences in gene-specific DNA methylation levels are present at birth. Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology, 91: 728–736. doi: 10.1002/bdra.20770
- Issue published online: 5 AUG 2011
- Article first published online: 9 FEB 2011
- Manuscript Accepted: 17 NOV 2010
- Manuscript Revised: 16 NOV 2010
- Manuscript Received: 8 OCT 2010
- National Institutes of Health. Grant Number: R01-HD060713
- University of Tennessee Health Science Center Clinical and Translational Science Institute
- The Urban Child Institute
- DNA methylation;
- African American;
- racial difference;
- stratified Kruskal-Wallis
DNA methylation patterns differ among children and adults and play an unambiguous role in several disease processes, particularly cancers. The origin of these differences is inadequately understood, and this is a question of specific relevance to childhood and adult cancer.
DNA methylation levels at 26,485 autosomal CpGs were assayed in 201 newborns (107 African American and 94 Caucasian). Nonparametric analyses were performed to examine the relation between these methylation levels and maternal parity, maternal age, newborn gestational age, newborn gender, and newborn race. To identify the possible influences of confounding, stratification was performed by a second and third variable. For genes containing CpGs with significant differences in DNA methylation levels between races, analyses were performed to identify highly represented gene ontological terms and functional pathways.
13.7% (3623) of the autosomal CpGs exhibited significantly different levels of DNA methylation between African Americans and Caucasians; 2% of autosomal CpGs had significantly different DNA methylation levels between male and female newborns. Cancer pathways, including four (pancreatic, prostate, bladder, and melanoma) with substantial differences in incidence between the races, were highly represented among the genes containing significant race-divergent CpGs.
At birth, there are significantly different DNA methylation levels between African Americans and Caucasians at a subset of CpG dinucleotides. It is possible that some of the epigenetic precursors to cancer exist at birth and that these differences partially explain the different incidence rates of specific cancers between the races. Birth Defects Research (Part A), 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.