The relationship of DNA methylation with age, gender and genotype in twins and healthy controls

Marco P. Boks, Eske M. Derks, Daniel J. Weisenberger, Erik Strengman, Esther Janson, Iris E. Sommer, René S. Kahn, Roel A. Ophoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

282 Scopus citations


Cytosine-5 methylation within CpG dinucleotides is a potentially important mechanism of epigenetic influence on human traits and disease. In addition to influences of age and gender, genetic control of DNA methylation levels has recently been described. We used whole blood genomic DNA in a twin set (23 MZ twin-pairs and 23 DZ twin-pairs, N = 92) as well as healthy controls (N = 96) to investigate heritability and relationship with age and gender of selected DNA methylation profiles using readily commercially available GoldenGate bead array technology. Despite the inability to detect meaningful methylation differences in the majority of CpG loci due to tissue type and locus selection issues, we found replicable significant associations of DNA methylation with age and gender. We identified associations of genetically heritable single nucleotide polymorphisms with large differences in DNA methylation levels near the polymorphism (cis effects) as well as associations with much smaller differences in DNA methylation levels elsewhere in the human genome (trans effects). Our results demonstrate the feasibility of array-based approaches in studies of DNA methylation and highlight the vast differences between individual loci. The identification of CpG loci of which DNA methylation levels are under genetic control or are related to age or gender will facilitate further studies into the role of DNA methylation and disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere6767
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
StatePublished - 26 Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


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