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Smoking, DNA methylation and lung function: a Mendelian randomization analysis to investigate causal relationships

By Emily Jamieson, Roxanna Korologou-Linden, Robyn E Wootton, Anna L Guyatt, Thomas Battram, Kimberley Burrows, Tom R Gaunt, Martin Tobin, Marcus Munafò, George Davey Smith, Kate Tilling, Caroline Relton, Tom G Richardson, Rebecca C. Richmond

Posted 02 Aug 2019
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/19003335

Whether smoking-associated DNA methylation has a causal effect on lung function has not been thoroughly evaluated. We investigated the causal effects of 474 smoking-associated CpGs on forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) in two-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) using methylation quantitative trait loci and genome-wide association data for FEV1. We found evidence of a possible causal effect for DNA methylation on FEV1 at 18 CpGs (p<1.2x10-4). Replication analysis supported a causal effect at three CpGs (cg21201401 (ZGPAT), cg19758448 (PGAP3) and cg12616487 (AHNAK) (p<0.0028). DNA methylation did not clearly mediate the effect of smoking on FEV1, although DNA methylation at some sites may influence lung function via effects on smoking. Using multiple-trait colocalization, we found evidence of shared causal variants between lung function, gene expression and DNA methylation. Findings highlight potential therapeutic targets for improving lung function and possibly smoking cessation, although large, tissue-specific datasets are required to confirm these results.

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