Identification of Smoking-Associated Differentially Methylated Regions Using Reduced Representation Bisulfite Sequencing and Cell type-Specific Enhancer Activation and Gene Expression.
BACKGROUND: Cigarette smoke is a causal factor in cancers and cardiovascular disease. Smoking-associated differentially methylated regions (SM-DMRs) have been observed in disease studies, but the causal link between altered DNA methylation and transcriptional change is obscure. OBJECTIVE: Our objectives were to finely resolve SM-DMRs and to interrogate the mechanistic link between SM-DMRs and altered transcription of enhancer noncoding RNA (eRNA) and mRNA in human circulating monocytes. METHOD: We integrated SM-DMRs identified by reduced representation bisulfite sequencing (RRBS) of circulating CD14+ monocyte DNA collected from two independent human studies [n=38 from Clinical Research Unit (CRU) and n=55 from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), about half of whom were active smokers] with gene expression for protein-coding genes and noncoding RNAs measured by RT-PCR or RNA sequencing. Candidate SM-DMRs were compared with RRBS of purified CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells, CD15+ granulocytes, CD19+ B cells, and CD56+ NK cells (n=19 females, CRU). DMRs were validated using pyrosequencing or bisulfite amplicon sequencing in up to 85 CRU volunteers, who also provided saliva DNA. RESULTS: RRBS identified monocyte SM-DMRs frequently located in putative gene regulatory regions. The most significant monocyte DMR occurred at a poised enhancer in the aryl-hydrocarbon receptor repressor gene (AHRR) and it was also detected in both granulocytes and saliva DNA. To our knowledge, we identify for the first time that SM-DMRs in or near AHRR, C5orf55-EXOC-AS, and SASH1 were associated with increased noncoding eRNA as well as mRNA in monocytes. Functionally, the AHRR SM-DMR appeared to up-regulate AHRR mRNA through activating the AHRR enhancer, as suggested by increased eRNA in the monocytes, but not granulocytes, from smokers compared with nonsmokers. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that AHRR SM-DMR up-regulates AHRR mRNA in a monocyte-specific manner by activating the AHRR enhancer. Cell type-specific activation of enhancers at SM-DMRs may represent a mechanism driving smoking-related disease. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP2395.
Wan, M; Bennett, BD; Pittman, GS; Campbell, MR; Reynolds, LM; Porter, DK; Crowl, CL; Wang, X; Su, D; Englert, NA; Thompson, IJ; Liu, Y; Bell, DA
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