Shared genetic control of expression and methylation in peripheral blood

Shakhbazov, Konstantin, Powell, Joseph E., Hemani, Gibran, Henders, Anjali K., Martin, Nicholas G., Visscher, Peter M., Montgomery, Grant W. and McRae, Allan F. (2016) Shared genetic control of expression and methylation in peripheral blood. BMC Genomics, 17 . doi:10.1186/s12864-016-2498-4

Author Shakhbazov, Konstantin
Powell, Joseph E.
Hemani, Gibran
Henders, Anjali K.
Martin, Nicholas G.
Visscher, Peter M.
Montgomery, Grant W.
McRae, Allan F.
Title Shared genetic control of expression and methylation in peripheral blood
Journal name BMC Genomics   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1471-2164
Publication date 2016-04-06
Year available 2016
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1186/s12864-016-2498-4
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 17
Total pages 13
Place of publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher BioMed Central
Collection year 2017
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Background: Expression QTLs and epigenetic marks are often employed to provide an insight into the possible biological mechanisms behind GWAS hits. A substantial proportion of the variation in gene expression and DNA methylation is known to be under genetic control. We address the proportion of genetic control that is shared between these two genomic features.

Results: An exhaustive search for pairwise phenotypic correlations between gene expression and DNA methylation in samples from human blood (n = 610) was performed. Of the 5 × 109 possible pairwise tests, 0.36 % passed Bonferroni corrected p-value cutoff of 9.9 × 10-12. We determined that the correlation structure between probe pairs was largely due to blood cell type specificity of the expression and methylation probes. Upon adjustment of the expression and methylation values for observed blood cellular composition (n = 422), the number of probe pairs which survived Bonferroni correction reduced by more than 5400 fold. Of the 614 correlated probe pairs located on the same chromosome, 75 % share at least one methylation and expression QTL at nominal 10-5 p-value cutoff. Those probe pairs are located within 1Mbp window from each other and have a mean of absolute value of genetic correlation equal to 0.69, further demonstrating the high degree of shared genetic control.

Conclusions: Overall, this study demonstrates notable genetic covariance between DNA methylation and gene expression and reaffirms the importance of correcting for cell-counts in studies on non-homogeneous tissues.
Keyword DNA methylation
Gene expression
Genetic correlation
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

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