Rationale: PM2.5-induced adverse effects on respiratory health may be driven by epigenetic modifications in airway cells. The potential impact of exposure duration on epigenetic alterations in the airways is not yet known.
Objectives: We aimed to study associations of fine particulate matter PM2.5 exposure with DNA methylation in nasal cells.
Methods: We conducted nasal epigenome-wide association analyses within 503 children from Project Viva (mean age 12.9 y), and examined various exposure durations (1-day, 1-week, 1-month, 3-months and 1-year) prior to nasal sampling. We used residential addresses to estimate average daily PM2.5 at 1 km resolution. We collected nasal swabs from the anterior nares and measured DNA methylation (DNAm) using the Illumina Methylation EPIC BeadChip. We tested 719,075 high quality autosomal CpGs using CpG-by-CpG and regional DNAm analyses controlling for multiple comparisons, and adjusted for maternal education, household smokers, child sex, race/ethnicity, BMI z-score, age, season at sample collection and cell-type heterogeneity. We further corrected for bias and genomic inflation. We tested for replication in a cohort from the Netherlands (PIAMA).
Results: In adjusted analyses, we found 362 CpGs associated with 1-year PM2.5 (FDR < 0.05), 20 CpGs passing Bonferroni correction (P < 7.0 x 10(-8)) and 10 Differentially Methylated Regions (DMRs). In 445 PIAMA participants (mean age 16.3 years) 11 of 203 available CpGs replicated at P < 0.05. We observed differential DNAm at/ near genes implicated in cell cycle, immune and inflammatory responses. There were no CpGs or regions associated with PM2.5 levels at 1-day, 1-week, or 1-month prior to sample collection, although 2 CpGs were associated with past 3-month PM2.5.
Conclusion: We observed wide-spread DNAm variability associated with average past year PM2.5 exposure but we did not detect associations with shorter-term exposure. Our results suggest that nasal DNAm marks reflect chronic air pollution exposure.