Identification of genetic and epigenetic marks involved in population structure

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Population structure is well known as a prevalent and important factor in genetic studies, but its relevance in epigenetics is unclear. Very little is known about the affected epigenetic markers and their connections with genetics. In this study we assessed the impact of population diversity on genome wide single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and DNA methylation levels in 196 participants from five ethnic groups, using principle and independent component analyses. Three population stratification factors (PSFs) were identified in the genomic SNP dataset, accounting for a relatively large portion of total variance (6%). In contrast, only one PSF was identified in genomic methylation dataset accounting for 0.2% of total variance. This methylation PSF, however, was significantly correlated with the largest SNP PSF (r = 0.72, p < 1E-23). We then investigated the top contributing markers in these two linked PSFs. The SNP PSF predominantly consists of 8 SNPs from three genes, SLC45A2, HERC2 and CTNNA2, known to encode skin/hair/eye color. The methylation PSF includes 48 methylated sites in 44 genes coding for basic molecular functions, including transcription regulation, DNA binding, cytokine, and transferase activity. Among them, 8 sites are either hypo- or hyper-methylated orrelating to minor alleles of SNPs in the SNP PSF. We found that the genes in SNP and methylation PSFs share common biological processes including sexual/multicellular organism reproduction, cell-cell signaling and cytoskeleton organization. We further investigated the transcription regulatory network operating at these genes and identified that most of genes closely interact with ID2, which encodes for a helix-loop-helix inhibitor of DNA binding. Overall, our results show a significant correlation between genetic and epigenetic population stratification, and suggest that the interrelationship between genetic and epigenetic population structure is mediated via complex multiple gene interac tions in shared biological processes, through possibly, SNPdependent modulation and ID2 repressor function. © 2010 Liu et al.




Liu, J., Hutchison, K., Perrone-Bizzozero, N., Morgan, M., Sui, J., & Calhoun, V. (2010). Identification of genetic and epigenetic marks involved in population structure. PLoS ONE, 5(10).

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