Distinct Epigenetic Effects of Tobacco Smoking in Whole Blood and among Leukocyte Subtypes.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Tobacco smoke exposure dramatically alters DNA methylation in blood cells and may mediate smoking-associated complex diseases through effects on immune cell function. However, knowledge of smoking effects in specific leukocyte subtypes is limited. To better characterize smoking-associated methylation changes in whole blood and leukocyte subtypes, we used Illumina 450K arrays and Reduced Representation Bisulfite Sequencing (RRBS) to assess genome-wide DNA methylation. Differential methylation analysis in whole blood DNA from 172 smokers and 81 nonsmokers revealed 738 CpGs, including 616 previously unreported CpGs, genome-wide significantly associated with current smoking (p <1.2x10-7, Bonferroni correction). Several CpGs (MTSS1, NKX6-2, BTG2) were associated with smoking duration among heavy smokers (>22 cigarettes/day, n = 86) which might relate to long-term heavy-smoking pathology. In purified leukocyte subtypes from an independent group of 20 smokers and 14 nonsmokers we further examined methylation and gene expression for selected genes among CD14+ monocytes, CD15+ granulocytes, CD19+ B cells, and CD2+ T cells. In 10 smokers and 10 nonsmokers we used RRBS to fine map differential methylation in CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells, CD14+, CD15+, CD19+, and CD56+ natural killer cells. Distinct cell-type differences in smoking-associated methylation and gene expression were identified. AHRR (cg05575921), ALPPL2 (cg21566642), GFI1 (cg09935388), IER3 (cg06126421) and F2RL3 (cg03636183) showed a distinct pattern of significant smoking-associated methylation differences across cell types: granulocytes> monocytes>> B cells. In contrast GPR15 (cg19859270) was highly significant in T and B cells and ITGAL (cg09099830) significant only in T cells. Numerous other CpGs displayed distinctive cell-type responses to tobacco smoke exposure that were not apparent in whole blood DNA. Assessing the overlap between these CpG sites and differential methylated regions (DMRs) with RRBS in 6 cell types, we confirmed cell-type specificity in the context of DMRs. We identified new CpGs associated with current smoking, pack-years, duration, and revealed unique profiles of smoking-associated DNA methylation and gene expression among immune cell types, providing potential clues to hematopoietic lineage-specific effects in disease etiology.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Su, D; Wang, X; Campbell, MR; Porter, DK; Pittman, GS; Bennett, BD; Wan, M; Englert, NA; Crowl, CL; Gimple, RN; Adamski, KN; Huang, Z; Murphy, SK; Bell, DA

Published Date

  • 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 11 / 12

Start / End Page

  • e0166486 -

PubMed ID

  • 27935972

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC5147832

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1932-6203

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1371/journal.pone.0166486


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States