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


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

  • January 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 11 / 12

Start / End Page

  • e0166486 -

PubMed ID

  • 27935972

Pubmed Central ID

  • 27935972

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1932-6203

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1932-6203

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1371/journal.pone.0166486


  • eng