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Open Access Research article

Obesity related methylation changes in DNA of peripheral blood leukocytes

Xiaoling Wang1*, Haidong Zhu1, Harold Snieder15, Shaoyong Su6, David Munn24, Gregory Harshfield13, Bernard L Maria234, Yanbin Dong1, Frank Treiber1, Bernard Gutin1 and Huidong Shi4

Author Affiliations

1 Georgia Prevention Institute, Department of Pediatrics, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, GA, USA

2 Department of Pediatrics, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, GA, USA

3 The Child Health Discovery Institute, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, GA, USA

4 The Cancer Research Center, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, GA, USA

5 Unit of Genetic Epidemiology and Bioinformatics, Department of Epidemiology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, The Netherlands

6 Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA

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BMC Medicine 2010, 8:87  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-8-87

Published: 21 December 2010

Abstract

Background

Despite evidence linking obesity to impaired immune function, little is known about the specific mechanisms. Because of emerging evidence that immune responses are epigenetically regulated, we hypothesized that DNA methylation changes are involved in obesity induced immune dysfunction and aimed to identify these changes.

Method

We conducted a genome wide methylation analysis on seven obese cases and seven lean controls aged 14 to 18 years from extreme ends of the obesity distribution and performed further validation of six CpG sites from six genes in 46 obese cases and 46 lean controls aged 14 to 30 years.

Results

In comparison with the lean controls, we observed one CpG site in the UBASH3A gene showing higher methylation levels and one CpG site in the TRIM3 gene showing lower methylation levels in the obese cases in both the genome wide step (P = 5 × 10-6 and P = 2 × 10-5 for the UBASH3A and the TRIM3 gene respectively) and the validation step (P = 0.008 and P = 0.001 for the UBASH3A and the TRIM3 gene respectively).

Conclusions

Our results provide evidence that obesity is associated with methylation changes in blood leukocyte DNA. Further studies are warranted to determine the causal direction of this relationship as well as whether such methylation changes can lead to immune dysfunction.

See commentary: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/8/88/abstract webcite