Epigenetic Profiling in Severe Sepsis: A Pilot Study of DNA Methylation Profiles in Critical Illness.
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OBJECTIVES: Epigenetic alterations are an important regulator of gene expression in health and disease; however, epigenetic data in sepsis are lacking. To demonstrate proof of concept and estimate effect size, we performed the first epigenome-wide methylation analysis of whole blood DNA samples from a cohort of septic and nonseptic critically ill patients. DESIGN: A nested case-control study using genomic DNA isolated from whole blood from septic (n = 66) and nonseptic (n = 68) critically ill patients on "Day 1" of ICU admission. Methylation patterns were identified using Illumina 450K arrays with percent methylation expressed as β values. After quality control, 134 participants and 414,818 autosomal cytosine-phosphate-guanine sites were used for epigenome-wide methylation analyses. SETTING: Tertiary care hospitals. SUBJECTS: Critically ill septic and nonseptic patients. INTERVENTIONS: Observational study. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: A total of 668 differentially methylated regions corresponding to 443 genes were identified. Known sepsis-associated genes included complement component 3; angiopoietin 2; myeloperoxidase; lactoperoxidase; major histocompatibility complex, class I, A; major histocompatibility complex, class II, isotype DR β I; major histocompatibility complex, class I, C; and major histocompatibility complex, class II, isotype DQ β I. When compared with whole blood gene expression data from seven external datasets containing septic and nonseptic patients, 81% of the differentially methylated region-associated genes were differentially expressed in one or more datasets and 31% in three or more datasets. Functional analysis showed enrichment for antigen processing and presentation, methyltransferase activity, cell adhesion, and cell junctions. Analysis by weighted gene coexpression network analysis revealed DNA comethylation modules that were associated with clinical traits including severity of illness, need for vasopressors, and length of stay. CONCLUSIONS: DNA methylation marks may provide important causal and potentially biomarker information in critically ill patients with sepsis.
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