Air pollution and DNA methylation: Interaction by psychological factors in the va normative aging study

Jaime Madrigano, Andrea Baccarelli, Murray A. Mittleman, David Sparrow, Avron Spiro, Pantel S. Vokonas, Laura Cantone, Laura Kubzansky, Joel Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


DNA methylation is a potential pathway linking air pollution to disease. Studies indicate that psychological functioning modifies the association between pollution and morbidity. The authors estimated the association of DNA methylation with ambient particulate matter less than 2.5 μm in diameter (PM 2.5) and black carbon, using mixed models. DNA methylation of the inducible nitric oxide synthase gene, iNOS, and the glucocorticoid receptor gene, GCR, was measured by quantitative polymerase chain reaction pyrosequencing of 1,377 blood samples from 699 elderly male participants in the VA Normative Aging Study (1999-2009). The authors also investigated whether this association was modified by psychological factors including optimism or pessimism, anxiety, and depression. iNOS methylation was decreased after acute exposure to both black carbon and PM 2.5. A 1-μg/m 3 increase in exposure to black carbon in the 4 hours preceding the clinical examination was associated with a 0.9 decrease in 5-methylcytosine (95 CI: 0.4, 1.4) in iNOS, and a 10-μg/m 3 increase in exposure to PM 2.5 was associated with a 0.6 decrease in 5-methylcytosine (95 CI: 0.03, 1.1) in iNOS. Participants with low optimism and high anxiety had associations that were 34 times larger than those with high optimism or low anxiety. GCR methylation was not associated with particulate air pollution exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-232
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


  • air pollution
  • DNA methylation
  • psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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