DNA methylation and obesity traits: An epigenome-wide association study. The REGICOR study

Epigenetics. 2017;12(10):909-916. doi: 10.1080/15592294.2017.1363951. Epub 2017 Nov 27.


Obesity is associated with increased risk of several diseases and has become epidemic. Obesity is highly heritable but the genetic variants identified by genome-wide association studies explain only limited variability. Epigenetics could contribute to explain the missing variability. The study aim was to discover differential methylation patterns related to obesity. We designed an epigenome-wide association study with a discovery phase in a subsample of 641 REGICOR study participants, validated by analysis of 2,515 participants in the Framingham Offspring Study. Blood DNA methylation was assessed using Illumina HumanMethylation450 BeadChip. Next, we meta-analyzed the data using the fixed effects method and performed a functional and pathway analysis using the Ingenuity Pathway Analysis software. We were able to validate 94 CpGs associated with body mass index (BMI) and 49 CpGs associated with waist circumference, located in 95 loci. In addition, we newly discovered 70 CpGs associated with BMI and 33 CpGs related to waist circumference. These CpGs explained 25.94% and 29.22% of the variability of BMI and waist circumference, respectively, in the REGICOR sample. We also evaluated 65 of the 95 validated loci in the GIANT genome-wide association data; 10 of them had Tag SNPs associated with BMI. The top-ranked diseases and functions identified in the functional and pathway analysis were neurologic, psychological, endocrine, and metabolic.

Keywords: DNA methylation; body mass index; epigenome-wide study; obesity; waist.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • CpG Islands / genetics
  • DNA Methylation / genetics*
  • Epigenomics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / genetics

Grant support

This work was supported by grants from the Catalan Agència de Gestió d'Ajuts Universitaris de Recerca (2014-SGR-240) and the Spanish Ministry of Economy through the Instituto de Salud Carlos III-FEDER (FIS PI15/00051, PI12/00232, CIBERCV, CIBERESP, Red de Investigación Cardiovascular RD12/0042). S.S-B. was funded by contracts from Instituto de Salud Carlos III-FEDER (IFI14/00007). A.F-S. was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (BES-2014–069718).