Exposure to airborne particulate matter is associated with methylation pattern in the asthma pathway

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Abstract

Background:

Asthma exacerbation and other respiratory symptoms are associated with exposure to air pollution. Since environment affects gene methylation, it is hypothesized that asthmatic responses to pollution are mediated through methylation.

Materials & methods:

We study the possibility that airborne particulate matter affects gene methylation in the asthma pathway. We measured methylation array data in clinic visits of 141 subjects from the Normative Aging Study. Black carbon and sulfate measures from a central monitoring site were recorded and 30-day averages were calculated for each clinic visit. Gene-specific methylation scores were calculated for the genes in the asthma pathway, and the association between the methylation in the asthma pathway and the pollution measures was analyzed using sparse Canonical Correlation Analysis.

Results:

The analysis found that exposures to black carbon and sulfate were significantly associated with the methylation pattern in the asthma pathway (p-values 0.05 and 0.02, accordingly). Specific genes that contributed to this association were identified.

Conclusion:

These results suggest that the effect of air pollution on asthmatic and respiratory responses may be mediated through gene methylation.

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