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Epigenetic influences on aging: a longitudinal genome-wide methylation study in old Swedish twins

By Yunzhang Wang, Robert Karlsson, Erik Lampa, Qian Zhang, Åsa K. Hedman, Malin Almgren, Catarina Almqvist, Allan F. McRae, Riccardo Marioni, Erik Ingelsson, Peter M. Visscher, Ian J Deary, Lars Lind, Tiffany Morris, Stephan Beck, Nancy L. Pedersen, Sara Hägg

Posted 29 Nov 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/226266 (published DOI: 10.1080/15592294.2018.1526028)

Age-related changes in DNA methylation have been observed in many cross-sectional studies, but longitudinal evidence is still very limited. Here, we aimed to characterize longitudinal age-related methylation patterns (Illumina HumanMethylation450 array) using 1011 blood samples collected from 385 old Swedish twins (mean age of 69 at baseline) up to five times over 20 years. We identified 1316 age-associated methylation sites (p<1.3*10-7) using a longitudinal epigenome-wide association study design. We measured how estimated cellular compositions changed with age and how much they confounded the age effect. We validated the results in two independent longitudinal cohorts, where 118 CpGs were replicated in PIVUS (p<3.9*10-5) and 594 were replicated in LBC (p<5.1*10-5). Functional annotation of age-associated CpGs showed enrichment in CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) and other unannotated transcription factor binding sites. We further investigated genetic influences on methylation (methylation quantitative trait loci) and found no interaction between age and genetic effects in the 1316 age-associated CpGs. Moreover, in the same CpGs, methylation differences within twin pairs increased over time, where monozygotic twins had smaller intra-pair differences than dizygotic twins. We show that age-related methylation changes persist in a longitudinal perspective, and are fairly stable across cohorts. Moreover, the changes are under genetic influence, although this effect is independent of age. In addition, inter-individual methylation variations increase over time, especially in age-associated CpGs, indicating the increase of environmental contributions on DNA methylation with age.

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