Correlation between global methylation level of peripheral blood leukocytes and serum C reactive protein level modified by MTHFR polymorphism: a cross-sectional study

BMC Cancer. 2018 Feb 13;18(1):184. doi: 10.1186/s12885-018-4089-z.


Background: Chronic inflammatory conditions are associated with higher tumor incidence through epigenetic and genetic alterations. Here, we focused on an association between an inflammation marker, C-reactive-protein (CRP), and global DNA methylation levels of peripheral blood leukocytes.

Methods: The subjects were 384 healthy Japanese women enrolled as the control group of a case-control study for breast cancer conducted from 2001 to 2005. Global DNA methylation was quantified by Luminometric Methylation Assay (LUMA).

Results: With adjustment for lifestyle-related factors, including folate intake, the global DNA methylation level of peripheral blood leukocytes was significantly but weakly increased by 0.43% per quartile category for CRP (P for trend = 0.010). Estimated methylation levels stratified by CRP quartile were 70.0%, 70.8%, 71.4%, and 71.3%, respectively. In addition, interaction between polymorphism of MTHFR (rs1801133, known as C677T) and CRP was significant (P for interaction = 0.046); the global methylation level was significantly increased by 0.61% per quartile category for CRP in the CT/TT group (those with the minor allele T, P for trend = 0.001), whereas no association was observed in the CC group (wild type).

Conclusions: Our study suggests that CRP concentration is weakly associated with global DNA methylation level. However, this association was observed more clearly in individuals with the minor allele of the MTHFR missense SNP rs1801133. By elucidating the complex mechanism of the regulation of DNA methylation by both acquired and genetic factors, our results may be important for cancer prevention.

Keywords: C reactive protein; DNA methylation; Folate intake; Folate metabolism; Inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (NADPH2) / genetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*


  • C-Reactive Protein
  • MTHFR protein, human
  • Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (NADPH2)