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Peripheral blood DNA methylation differences in twin pairs discordant for Alzheimer's disease

By Mikko Konki, Maia Malonzo, Ida K. Karlsson, Noora Lindgren, Bishwa Ghimire, Johannes Smolander, Noora M. Scheinin, Miina Ollikainen, Asta Laiho, Laura L. Elo, Tapio Lönnberg, Matias Röyttä, Nancy Pedersen, Jaakko Kaprio, Harri Lähdesmäki, Juha Rinne, Riikka J. Lund

Posted 12 Nov 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/468470 (published DOI: 10.1186/s13148-019-0729-7)

Alzheimer's disease (AD) results from a neurodegenerative process that starts well before the diagnosis can be made. New prognostic or diagnostic markers enabling early intervention into the disease process would be highly valuable. As life style factors largely modulate the disease risk, we hypothesised that the disease associated DNA methylation signatures are detectable in the peripheral blood of discordant twin pairs. Reduced Representation Bisulfite Sequencing, single cell RNA-sequencing and gene array data were utilised to examine DNA methylation signatures and associated gene expression changes in blood and hippocampus, and targeted bisulfite sequencing in cross cohort validation. Our results reveal that discordant twin pairs have disease associated differences in their peripheral blood epigenomes. A subset of affected genes, e.g. ADARB2 contain differentially methylated sites also in anterior hippocampus. The DNA methylation differences seem to influence gene expression in brain rather than in blood cells. The affected genes are associated with neuronal functions and pathologies. These DNA methylation signatures are valuable disease marker candidates and may provide insights into the molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis.

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