Global methylation profiles in DNA from different blood cell types

Epigenetics. 2011 Jan;6(1):76-85. doi: 10.4161/epi.6.1.13391. Epub 2011 Jan 1.


DNA methylation measured in white blood cell DNA is increasingly being used as in studies of cancer susceptibility. However, little is known about the correlation between different assays to measure global methylation and whether the source of DNA matters when examining methylation profiles in different blood cell types. Using information from 620 women, 217 and 403 women with DNA available from granulocytes (Gran), and total white blood cells (WBC), respectively, and 48 women with DNA available from four different sources (WBC, Gran, mononuclear (MN), and lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCL)), we compared DNA methylation for three repetitive elements (LINE1, Sat2, Alu) by MethyLight, luminometric methylation assay (LUMA), and [(3)H]-methyl acceptance assay. For four of the five assays, DNA methylation levels measured in Gran were not correlated with methylation in LBC, MN, or WBC; the exception was Sat2. DNA methylation in LCL was correlated with methylation in MN and WBC for the [(3)H]-methyl acceptance, LINE1, and Alu assays. Methylation in MN was correlated with methylation in WBC for the [(3)H]-methyl acceptance and LUMA assays. When we compared the five assays to each other by source of DNA, we observed statistically significant positive correlations ranging from 0.3-0.7 for each cell type with one exception (Sat2 and Alu in MN). Among the 620 women stratified by DNA source, correlations among assays were highest for the three repetitive elements (range 0.39-0.64). Results from the LUMA assay were modestly correlated with LINE1 (0.18-0.20). These results suggest that both assay and source of DNA are critical components in the interpretation of global DNA methylation patterns from WBC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • DNA Methylation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / cytology
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid / physiology*