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Epigenome-wide association analysis of daytime sleepiness in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis reveals African-American specific associations

By Richard Barfield, Heming Wang, Yongmei Liu, Jennifer A Brody, Brenton Swenson, Ruitong Li, Traci M Bartz, Nona Sotoodehnia, Yii-der I Chen, Brian E Cade, Han Chen, Sanjay R. Patel, Xiaofeng Zhu, Sina A Gharib, W Craig Johnson, Jerome Rotter, Richa Saxena, Shaun M. Purcell, Xihong Lin, Susan Redline, Tamar Sofer

Posted 18 Oct 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/447474 (published DOI: 10.1093/sleep/zsz101)

Study Objectives: Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is a consequence of inadequate sleep, or of a primary disorder of sleep-wake control. Population variability in prevalence of EDS and susceptibility to EDS are likely due to genetic and biological factors as well as social and environmental influences. Epigenetic modifications (such as DNA methylation-DNAm) are potential influences on a range of health outcomes. Here, we explored the association between DNAm and daytime sleepiness quantified by the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS). Methods: We performed multi-ethnic and ethnic-specific epigenome-wide association studies for DNAm and ESS in 619 individuals from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Replication was assessed in the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS). Genetic variants in genes proximal to ESS-associated DNAm were analyzed to identify methylation quantitative trait loci and followed with replication of genotype-sleepiness associations in the UK Biobank. Results: 61 methylation sites were associated with ESS (FDR < 0.1) in African Americans only, including an association in KCTD5, a gene strongly implicated in sleep. One association (cg26130090) replicated in CHS African Americans (p-value 0.0004). We identified a sleepiness-associated methylation site in the gene RAI1, a gene associated with sleep and circadian phenotypes. In a follow-up analysis, a genetic variant within RAI1 associated with both DNAm and sleepiness score. The variant's association with sleepiness was replicated in the UK Biobank. Conclusions: Our analysis identified methylation sites in multiple genes that may be implicated in EDS. These sleepiness-methylation associations were specific to African Americans. Future work is needed to identify mechanisms driving ancestry-specific methylation effects.

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