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DNA methylation (DNAm) has a well-established association with age in many tissues, including peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Compared to DNAm, the closely related epigenetic modification known as DNA hydroxymethylation (DNAhm) was much more recently discovered in mammals. Preliminary investigations have observed a positive correlation between gene body DNAhm and cis-gene expression. While some of these studies have observed an association between age and global DNAhm, none have investigated region-specific age-related DNAhm in human blood samples. In this study, we investigated DNAhm and gene expression in PBMCs of 10 young and 10 old, healthy female volunteers. Thousands of regions were differentially hydroxymethylated in the old vs. young individuals in gene bodies, exonic regions, enhancers, and promoters. Consistent with previous work, we observed directional consistency between age-related differences in DNAhm and gene expression. Further, age-related DNAhm and genes with high levels of DNAhm were enriched for immune system processes which may support a role of age-related DNAhm in immunosenescence.


Nicholas D Johnson, Luoxiu Huang, Ronghua Li, Yun Li, Yuchen Yang, Hye Rim Kim, Crystal Grant, Hao Wu, Eric A Whitsel, Douglas P Kiel, Andrea A Baccarelli, Peng Jin, Joanne M Murabito, Karen N Conneely. Age-related DNA hydroxymethylation is enriched for gene expression and immune system processes in human peripheral blood. Epigenetics. 2020 Mar;15(3):294-306

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PMID: 31506003

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