Residential surrounding greenness and DNA methylation: An epigenome-wide association study

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Background: DNA methylation is a potential biological mechanism through which residential greenness affects health, but little is known about its association with greenness and whether the association could be modified by genetic background. We aimed to evaluate the association between surrounding greenness and genome-wide DNA methylation and potential gene-greenness interaction effects on DNA methylation. Methods: We measured blood-derived DNA methylation using the HumanMethylation450 BeadChip array (Illumina) for 479 Australian women, including 66 monozygotic, 66 dizygotic twin pairs, and 215 sisters of these twins. Surrounding greenness was represented by Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) within 300, 500, 1000 or 2000 m surrounding participants’ home addresses. For each cytosine-guanine dinucleotide (CpG), the associations between its methylation level and NDVI or EVI were evaluated by generalized estimating equations, after adjusting for age, education, marital status, area-level socioeconomic status, smoking behavior, cell-type proportions, and familial clustering. We used comb-p and DMRcate to identify significant differentially methylated regions (DMRs). For each significant CpG, we evaluated the interaction effects of greenness and single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within ±1 Mb window on its methylation level. Results: We found associations between surrounding greenness and blood DNA methylation for one CpG (cg04720477, mapped to the promoter region of CNP gene) with false discovery rate [FDR] < 0.05, and for another 9 CpGs with 0.05 ≤ FDR < 0.10. For two of these CpGs, we found 33 SNPs significantly (FDR < 0.05) modified the greenness-methylation association. There were 35 significant DMRs related to surrounding greenness that were identified by both comb-p (Sidak p-value < 0.01) and DMRcate (FDR < 0.01). Those CpGs and DMRs were mapped to genes related to many human diseases, such as mental health disorders and neoplasms as well as nutritional and metabolic diseases. Conclusions: Surrounding greenness was associated with blood DNA methylation of many loci across human genome, and this association could be modified by genetic variations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106556
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironment International
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetics
  • Epigenome-wide association study
  • Gene-environment interaction
  • Greenness

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