Fulvio Ricceri, Morena Trevisan, Valentina Fiano, Chiara Grasso, Francesca Fasanelli, Chiara Scoccianti, Laura De Marco, Anna Gillio Tos, Paolo Vineis, Carlotta Sacerdote
||PLoS ONE, 2017, Vol.9 (9)
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DNA methylation is a well-characterized epigenetic modification that plays an important role in the regulation of gene expression. There is growing evidence on the involvement of epigenetic mechanisms in disease onset, including cancer. Environmental factors seem to induce changes in DNA methylation affecting human health. However, little is known about basal methylation levels in healthy people and about the correlation between environmental factors and different methylation profiles. We investigated the effect of seasonality on basal methylation by testing methylation levels in the long interspersed nucleotide element-1 (LINE-1) and in two cancer-related genes (RASSF1A and MGMT) of 88 healthy male heavy smokers involved in an Italian randomized study; at enrolment the subjects donated a... blood sample collected in different months. Methylation analyses were performed by pyrosequencing. Mean methylation percentage was higher in spring and summer for the LINE1, RASSF1A and MGMT genes (68.26%, 2.35%, and 9.52% respectively) compared with autumn and winter (67.43%, 2.17%, and 8.60% respectively). In particular, LINE-1 was significantly hypomethylated (p = 0.04 or 0.05 depending on the CpG island involved) in autumn and winter compared with spring and summer. Seasonality seems to be a modifier of methylation levels and this observation should be taken into account in future analyses.