Several CD14 gene–environment interactions in relation to the development of allergic diseases have been reported, but the underlying biological mechanisms are unclear. We recently showed that CD14 methylation increased during childhood, parallelling a decreased impact of CD14 polymorphisms on soluble CD14 levels. Here, we aim to explore whether environmental stimuli during childhood affects CD14 methylation, thereby providing a biological mechanism through which environment may modulate genetic effect.
CD14 methylation levels were quantified in 157 children from the prospective Environment and Childhood Asthma birth cohort at ages 2 and 10. Associations between CD14 methylation levels and house dust levels of endotoxin, β(1,3)-glucans (at 2 yr only), allergens (dog, cat, and house dust mite), pet keeping and tobacco smoke exposure (TSE; questionnaire data) at 2 and 10 yr were explored.
Children in homes without pets had larger increases in CD14 methylation through childhood (2–10 yr) compared with children with pets (2.1% increase (p = 0.003) vs. 0.4% decrease (n.s.), global p = 0.04). At 10 yr of age, lower CD14 methylation values were found in children with pets compared with children without pets at both 2 and 10 yr (5.4% vs. 7.5% [p = 0.02]). A similar trend was detected for TSE; children not exposed show larger increases in CD14 methylation, most pronounced in school-age girls exposed vs. not exposed to tobacco (5.5% vs. 7.5% methylation, p = 0.037).
Pet keeping and TSE appears to limit increase in CD14 methylation from 2 to 10 yr of age. This may partly explain the diverging CD14 allele associations with allergic diseases detected in different environments.