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Comparison of the DNA methylation profiles of human peripheral blood cells and transformed B-lymphocytes


Epidemiological studies of DNA methylation (DNAm) profiles may hold substantial promise for identifying mechanisms through which genetic and environmental factors jointly contribute to disease risk. Different cell types are likely to have different DNAm patterns. We investigate the DNAm differences between two types of biospecimens available in many genetic epidemiology studies. We compared DNAm patterns in two different DNA samples from each of 34 participants in the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Arteriopathy study (20 Caucasians and 14 African-Americans). One was extracted from peripheral blood cells (PBC) and the other from transformed B-lymphocytes (TBL). The genome-wide DNAm profiles were compared at over 27,000 genome-wide methylation sites. We found that 26 out of the 34 participants had correlation coefficients higher than 0.9 between methylation profiles of PBC and TBL. Although a high correlation was observed in the DNAm profile between PBC and TBL, we also observed variation across samples from different DNA resources and donors. Using principal component analysis of the DNAm profiles, the two sources of the DNA samples could be accurately predicted. We also identified 3,723 autosomal DNAm sites that had significantly different methylation statuses in PBC compared to TBL (Bonferroni corrected p value <0.05). Both PBC and TBL provide a rich resource for understanding the DNAm profiles in humans participating in epidemiologic studies. While the majority of DNAm findings in PBC and TBL may be consistent, caution must be used when interpreting results because of the possibility of cell type-specific methylation modification.

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This work was supported by National Institute of Health grant NS041558 and HL100185.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Correspondence to Yan V. Sun.

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Sun, Y.V., Turner, S.T., Smith, J.A. et al. Comparison of the DNA methylation profiles of human peripheral blood cells and transformed B-lymphocytes. Hum Genet 127, 651–658 (2010).

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  • Gene Ontology
  • Methylation Status
  • Generalize Estimate Equation
  • Peripheral Blood Cell
  • Methylation Site