September 27th, 2016

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Epigenetic Signatures of Cigarette Smoking

Methods and Results—To comprehensively determine the association between cigarette smoking and DNA methylation, we conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide DNA methylation assessed using the Illumina BeadChip 450K array on 15,907 blood derived DNA samples from participants in 16 cohorts (including 2,433 current, 6,518 former, and 6,956 never smokers). Comparing current versus never smokers, 2,623 CpG sites (CpGs), annotated to 1,405 genes, were statistically significantly differentially methylated at Bonferroni threshold of p<1×10-7 (18,760 CpGs at False Discovery Rate (FDR)<0.05). Genes annotated to these CpGs were enriched for associations with several smoking-related traits in genome-wide studies including pulmonary function, cancers, inflammatory diseases and heart disease. Comparing former versus never smokers, 185 of the CpGs that differed between current and never smokers were significant p<1×10-7(2,623 CpGs at FDR<0.05), indicating a pattern of persistent altered methylation, with attenuation, after smoking cessation. Transcriptomic integration identified effects on gene expression at many differentially methylated CpGs.

Conclusions—Cigarette smoking has a broad impact on genome-wide methylation that, at many loci, persists many years after smoking cessation. Many of the differentially methylated genes were novel genes with respect to biologic effects of smoking, and might represent therapeutic targets for prevention or treatment of tobacco-related diseases. Methylation at these sites could also serve as sensitive and stable biomarkers of lifetime exposure to tobacco smoke.

NIEHS, NIH, Epidemiology Branch, PO Box 12233, Rm A306, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709 london2@niehs.nih.gov