Particulate Air Pollution, Clock Gene Methylation, and Stroke: Effects on Stroke Severity and Disability

Laura Cantone, Eleonora Tobaldini, Chiara Favero, Benedetta Albetti, Roberto M. Sacco, Giuseppe Torgano, Luca Ferrari, Nicola Montano, Valentina Bollati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Circadian rhythm disturbances have been consistently associated with the development of several diseases, particularly cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). A central clock in the brain maintains the daily rhythm in accordance with the external environment. At the molecular level, the clock is maintained by "clock genes", the regulation of which is mainly due to DNA methylation, a molecular mechanism of gene expression regulation, able to react to and be reprogrammed by environmental exposure such as exposure to particulate matter (PM). In 55 patients with a diagnosis of acute ischemic stroke, we showed that PM2.5 exposure experienced before the event influenced clock genes methylation (i.e., circadian locomotor output cycles protein kaput CLOCK, period 2 PER2, cryprochrome 1 CRY1, Neuronal PAS Domain Protein 2 NPAS2), possibly modulating the patient prognosis after the event, as cryptochrome 1 CRY1 and period 1 PER1 methylation levels were associated with the Rankin score. Moreover, if PM2.5 annual average was low, CRY1/CRY2 methylation levels were positively associated with the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) score, whereas they were negatively associated if PM2.5 exposure was high. Whether epigenetic changes in clock genes need to be considered as a prognostic marker of stroke or rather a causal agent in stroke development remains to be determined. Further studies are needed to determine the role of clock gene methylation in regulating the response to and recovery after a stroke event.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3090
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Apr 27 2020


  • air pollution
  • clock gene methylation
  • Rankin
  • stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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