Individual species and cumulative mixture relationships of 24-hour urine metal concentrations with DNA methylation age variables in older men

Jamaji C. Nwanaji-Enwerem, Elena Colicino, Aaron J. Specht, Xu Gao, Cuicui Wang, Pantel Vokonas, Marc G. Weisskopf, Edward W. Boyer, Andrea A. Baccarelli, Joel Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Globally, toxic metal exposures are a well-recognized risk factor for many adverse health outcomes. DNA methylation-based measures of biological aging are predictive of disease, but have poorly understood relationships with metal exposures. Objective: We performed a pilot study examining the relationships of 24-h urine metal concentrations with three novel DNA methylation-based measures of biological aging: DNAmAge, GrimAge, and PhenoAge. Methods: We utilized a previously established urine panel of five common metals [arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), manganese (Mn), and mercury (Hg)] found in a subset of the elderly US Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study cohort (N = 48). The measures of DNA methylation-based biological age were calculated using CpG sites on the Illumina HumanMethylation450 BeadChip. Bayesian Kernel Machine Regression (BKMR) was used to determine metals most important to the aging outcomes and the relationship of the cumulative metal mixture with the outcomes. Individual relationships of important metals with the biological aging outcomes were modeled using fully-adjusted linear models controlling for chronological age, renal function, and lifestyle/environmental factors. Results: Mn was selected as important to PhenoAge. A 1 ng/mL increase in urine Mn was associated with a 9.93-year increase in PhenoAge (95%CI: 1.24, 18.61, p = 0.03). The cumulative urine metal mixture was associated with increases in PhenoAge. Compared to a model where each metal in the mixture is set to its 50th percentile value, every one-unit increase of the cumulative mixture with each metal at its 70th percentile was associated with a 2.53-year increase in PhenoAge (95%CI: 0.10, 4.96, P<0.05). Conclusion: Our results add novel evidence that metals detected in urine are associated with increases in biological aging and suggest that these DNA methylation-based measures may be useful for identifying individuals at-risk for diseases related to toxic metal exposures. Further research is necessary to confirm these findings more broadly.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109573
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Aging
  • DNA Methylation age
  • Epigenetics
  • Urine metals


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