Exposure to airborne particulate matter is associated with methylation pattern in the asthma pathway

Tamar Sofer, Andrea Baccarelli, Laura Cantone, Brent Coull, Arnab Maity, Xihong Lin, Joel Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Asthma exacerbation and other respiratory symptoms are associated with exposure to air pollution. Since environment affects gene methylation, it is hypothesized that asthmatic responses to pollution are mediated through methylation. Materials & methods: We study the possibility that airborne particulate matter affects gene methylation in the asthma pathway. We measured methylation array data in clinic visits of 141 subjects from the Normative Aging Study. Black carbon and sulfate measures from a central monitoring site were recorded and 30-day averages were calculated for each clinic visit. Gene-specific methylation scores were calculated for the genes in the asthma pathway, and the association between the methylation in the asthma pathway and the pollution measures was analyzed using sparse Canonical Correlation Analysis. Results: The analysis found that exposures to black carbon and sulfate were significantly associated with the methylation pattern in the asthma pathway (p-values 0.05 and 0.02, accordingly). Specific genes that contributed to this association were identified. Conclusion: These results suggest that the effect of air pollution on asthmatic and respiratory responses may be mediated through gene methylation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-154
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • black carbon
  • epigenetics
  • gene-specific methylation scores
  • pathway analysis
  • sulfate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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