Comparison of baseline blood DNA methylation between individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and non-Alzheimer’s disease

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Title: Comparison of baseline blood DNA methylation between individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and non-Alzheimer’s disease
Author: Fan, Qiuyu
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2020
Thesis level: master's thesis
Abstract: Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative brain disorder in which the disease process may take decades until the symptoms become evident. To date, no ideal biomarker has emerged that would enable early detection of AD. Environmental and lifestyle factors are thought to affect the risk of developing AD, possibly through epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation (DNAm). DNAm has been shown to differ in the blood and brain of subjects with AD compared with subjects without AD, suggesting that DNAm may be involved in the pathogenic process of AD. This study aims to detect the difference in blood DNAm at baseline between cases who later developed AD and controls who remained AD diagnosis-free during follow-up in a sample selected from a Finnish population-based cohort. Leucocyte genome-wide DNAm was profiled on approximately 850,000 CpG sites by using Infinium MethylationEPIC assay. Each CpG was regressed on the outcome of AD diagnosis during follow-up, controlling for subjects’ age at sampling, sex, smoking status, blood cell counts, working stress level, slide, and array. Specific differentially methylated positions (DMPs) were further explored using pathway analysis. Finally, the methylation level of the candidate gene (APOE) selected from the literature was compared with the sample of this study. After correction for multiple testing, the later diagnosis of AD was not significantly (adjusted p-value < 0.05) associated with methylation level at the baseline at any DNAm site. There was, however, a robust hypomethylation of DMPs among the cases, as 90.9% of the DMPs (p-value < 0.05) were hypomethylated in the case group. The 200 genes annotated by DMPs with the smallest p-values were involved in two neuronal pathways: “Axon guidance associated with semaphorins Homo sapiens” (p-value = 0.0058, adjusted p-value = 0.065) in Panther 2016 and “Semaphorin interactions Homo sapiens” (p-value = 0.00005, adjusted p-value = 0.078) in Reactome 2016. No significant difference existed in DNAm of the candidate gene (APOE) between cases and controls, while cg26190885 at the promoter region of APOE showed nominal significance (p-value = 0.04). In conclusion, no strong evidence was found to support the hypothesis that systemic changes in DNAm are involved in the pathogenesis of AD or that DNAm marks could be detected in blood before the symptoms become evident. A genome-wide pattern of hypomethylation measured by the Infinium MethylationEPIC assay was observed in the case group, serving as a venue for further investigations.
Subject: Alzheimer’s disease
DNA methylation
epigenome-wide association study
candidate gene
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