Ambient temperature and genome-wide DNA methylation: A twin and family study in Australia

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Little is known about the association between ambient temperature and DNA methylation, which is a potential biological process through which ambient temperature affects health. This study aimed to evaluate the association between ambient temperature and DNA methylation across human genome. We included 479 Australian women, including 132 twin pairs and 215 sisters of these twins. Blood-derived DNA methylation was measured using the HumanMethylation450 BeadChip array. Data on average ambient temperature during eight different exposure windows [lag0d (the blood draw day), lag0-7d (the current day and previous seven days prior to blood draw), lag0-14d, lag0-21d, lag0-28d, lag0-90d, lag0-180d, and lag0-365d)] was linked to each participant's home address. For each cytosine-guanine dinucleotide (CpG), we evaluated the association between its methylation level and temperature using generalized estimating equations (GEE), adjusting for important covariates. We used comb-p and DMRcate to identify differentially methylated regions (DMRs). We identified 31 CpGs at which blood DNA methylation were significantly associated with ambient temperature with false discovery rate [FDR] < 0.05. There were 82 significant DMRs identified by both comb-p (Sidak p-value < 0.01) and DMRcate (FDR < 0.01). Most of these CpGs and DMRs only showed association with temperature during one specific exposure window. These CpGs and DMRs were mapped to 85 genes. These related genes have been related to many human chronic diseases or phenotypes (e.g., diabetes, arthritis, breast cancer, depression, asthma, body height) in previous studies. The signals of short-term windows (lag0d and lag0-21d) showed enrichment in biological processes related to cell adhesion. In conclusion, short-, medium-, and long-term exposures to ambient temperature were all associated with blood DNA methylation, but the target genomic loci varied by exposure window. These differential methylation signals may serve as potential biomarkers to understand the health impacts of temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117700
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2021


  • Ambient temperature
  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetics
  • Epigenome-wide association study
  • Twin and family study

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