Long-range epigenetic regulation is conferred by genetic variation located at thousands of independent loci

Nat Commun. 2015 Feb 26;6:6326. doi: 10.1038/ncomms7326.


The interplay between genetic and epigenetic variation is only partially understood. One form of epigenetic variation is methylation at CpG sites, which can be measured as methylation quantitative trait loci (meQTL). Here we report that in a panel of lymphocytes from 1,748 individuals, methylation levels at 1,919 CpG sites are correlated with at least one distal (trans) single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) (P<3.2 × 10(-13); FDR<5%). These trans-meQTLs include 1,657 SNP-CpG pairs from different chromosomes and 262 pairs from the same chromosome that are >1 Mb apart. Over 90% of these pairs are replicated (FDR<5%) in at least one of two independent data sets. Genomic loci harbouring trans-meQTLs are significantly enriched (P<0.001) for long non-coding transcripts (2.2-fold), known epigenetic regulators (2.3-fold), piwi-interacting RNA clusters (3.6-fold) and curated transcription factors (4.1-fold), including zinc-finger proteins (8.75-fold). Long-range epigenetic networks uncovered by this approach may be relevant to normal and disease states.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / genetics
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colonic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • CpG Islands*
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*

Associated data

  • dbGaP/PHS000779.V1.P1