An epigenome-wide association study of total serum immunoglobulin E concentration

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Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is a central mediator of allergic (atopic) inflammation. Therapies directed against IgE can alleviate hay fever1and allergic asthma1,2. Genetic association studies have not yet identified novel therapeutic targets or pathways underlying IgE regulation3-6. We therefore surveyed epigenetic associations between serum IgE concentrations and methylation at loci concentrated in CpG islands genome wide in 95 nuclear pedigrees, using DNA from peripheral blood leukocytes. We validated positive results in additional families and in subjects from the general population. Here we show replicated associations—with a meta-analysis false discovery rate less than 10−4—between IgE and low methylation at 36 loci. Genes annotated to these loci encode known eosinophil products, and also implicate phospholipid inflammatory mediators, specific transcription factors and mitochondrial proteins. We confirmed that methylation at these loci differed significantly in isolated eosinophils from subjects with and without asthma and high IgE levels. The top three loci accounted for 13% of IgE variation in the primary subject panel, explaining the tenfold higher variance found compared with that derived from large single-nucleotide polymorphism genome-wide association studies3,4. This study identifies novel therapeutic targets and biomarkers for patient stratification for allergic diseases.

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