Study identifies associations between DNA methylation and gene expression in children

Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

A new study observed connections between DNA methylation patterns and the level of gene expressions in the blood samples of children, furthering research on the relationship between early environmental exposures, epigenetics, and disease.

The study, published in elife, was designed to study how DNA methylation levels in certain areas of the genome influence the nearby gene expression known as expression quantitative trait methylations (eQTMs). To do so, researchers used blood samples from 832 children, ages 6 to 11 years old and determined levels of methylation and gene expression for each sample. Then, researchers identified the closest methylation site to each gene.

The study found 40,000 signification associations between the methylation and gene levels observed. According to the study, most genes were close to a methylation site and 59 percent of the cases showed an inverse relationship between methylation and gene expression levels. Of the same associations found in the blood samples of children, only 13.8 percent were found in adults. According to researchers these findings aligned with other studies showing that DNA methylation and gene expression change as humans age.

The study identified several associations between methylation and gene expression levels in children that may help scientists better understand disease and its relationship to epigenetics. This could lead to improved methods for disease prevention and treatment.