Neighborhood characteristics influence DNA methylation of genes involved in stress response and inflammation: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis
Smith, Jennifer A., Sharon L. R. Kardia, Belinda L. Needham, Wei Zhao, Xu Wang, Scott Ratliff, Bhramar Mukherjee, Yongmei Liu, an, et al. Online Access 2017. "Neighborhood characteristics influence DNA methylation of genes involved in stress response and inflammation: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis." Epigenetics.
Living in a disadvantaged neighborhood is associated with poor health outcomes even after accounting for individual-level socioeconomic factors. The chronic stress of unfavorable neighborhood conditions may lead to dysregulation of the stress reactivity and inflammatory pathways, potentially mediated through epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation. We used multi-level models to examine the relationship between 2 neighborhood conditions and methylation levels of 18 genes related to stress reactivity and inflammation in purified monocytes from 1,226 participants of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), a population-based sample of US adults. Neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage, a summary of 16 census-based metrics, was associated with DNA methylation [False discovery rate (FDR) q-value ≤ 0.1] in 2 out of 7 stress-related genes evaluated (CRF, SLC6A4) and 2 out of 11 inflammation-related genes (F8, TLR1). Neighborhood social environment, a summary measure of aesthetic quality, safety, and social cohesion, was associated with methylation in 4 of the 7 stress-related genes (AVP, BDNF, FKBP5, SLC6A4) and 7 of the 11 inflammation-related genes (CCL1, CD1D, F8, KLRG1, NLRP12, SLAMF7, TLR1). High socioeconomic disadvantage and worse social environment were primarily associated with increased methylation. In 5 genes with significant associations between neighborhood and methylation (FKBP5, CD1D, F8, KLRG1, NLRP12), methylation was associated with gene expression of at least one transcript. These results demonstrate that multiple dimensions of neighborhood context may influence methylation levels and subsequent gene expression of stress- and inflammation-related genes, even after accounting for individual socioeconomic factors. Further elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying these relationships will be important for understanding the etiology of health disparities.