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Keywords:

  • allergy;
  • epigenetics;
  • IgE;
  • maternal;
  • risk

To cite this article: Ferreira MAR, Oates NA, van Vliet J, Zhao ZZ, Ehrich M, Martin NG, Montgomery GW, Whitelaw E, Duffy DL. Characterization of the methylation patterns of MS4A2 in atopic cases and controls. Allergy 2010; 65: 333–337.

Abstract

Background:  It is largely unknown whether epigenetic modifications of key genes may contribute to the reported maternal effects in atopy. The aim of this study was to characterize the methylation patterns of the membrane-spanning 4-domains, subfamily A, member 2 gene (MS4A2) (β-chain of the IgE high-affinity receptor), a key gene in the allergic cascade.

Methods:  Mass spectrometry and bisulphite sequencing were used to measure the methylation of two potential substrates for epigenetic regulation of MS4A2, namely a predicted promoter and a CpG-rich AluSp repeat. Methylation was measured in DNA extracted from peripheral blood lymphocytes of 38 atopic cases and 37 controls. Cases were positive for atopy, asthma, bronchial hyper-responsiveness and had high IgE levels. Both parents of eight atopic cases were also tested.

Results:  The AluSp element was highly methylated across all individuals (mean 0.92, range 0.87–0.94), a pattern inconsistent with classical imprinting. Variation in methylation at this locus was not associated with age, sex, daily steroid use or atopic status, and there were no differences in methylation between mothers and fathers of atopic cases. Bisulphite sequencing analysis of the promoter region showed that it was also not imprinted, and there was no evidence for allele-specific methylation, but we were unable to test for association with atopy status.

Conclusions:  Methylation levels at the AluSp repeat analysed in MS4A2 were inconsistent with classical imprinting mechanisms and did not associate with atopy status. The promoter region was less methylated but further analysis of this region in larger cohorts is warranted to investigate its role in allergic disease.