Cell lineage-specific genome-wide DNA methylation analysis of patients with paediatric-onset systemic lupus erythematosus

Epigenetics. 2019 Apr;14(4):341-351. doi: 10.1080/15592294.2019.1585176. Epub 2019 Mar 16.


Patients with paediatric-onset systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) often present with more severe clinical courses than adult-onset patients. Although genome-wide DNA methylation (DNAm) profiling has been performed in adult-onset SLE patients, parallel data on paediatric-onset SLE are not available. Therefore, we undertook a genome-wide DNAm study in paediatric-onset SLE patients across multiple blood cell lineages. The DNAm profiles of four purified immune cell lineages (CD4 + T cells, CD8 + T cells, B cells and neutrophils) and whole blood were compared in 16 Chinese patients with paediatric-onset SLE and 13 healthy controls using the Illumina HumanMethylationEPIC BeadChip. Comparison of DNAm in whole blood and within each independent cell lineage identified a consistent pattern of loss of DNAm at 21 CpG sites overlapping 15 genes, which represented a robust, disease-specific DNAm signature for paediatric-onset SLE in our cohort. In addition, cell lineage-specific changes, involving both loss and gain of DNAm, were observed in both novel genes and genes with well-described roles in SLE pathogenesis. This study also highlights the importance of studying DNAm changes in different immune cell lineages rather than only whole blood, since cell type-specific DNAm changes facilitated the elucidation of the cell type-specific molecular pathophysiology of SLE.

Keywords: DNA methylation; MethylationEPIC; SLE; blood; cell composition; cell lineage-specific; lupus; paediatric-onset.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cell Lineage*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child
  • CpG Islands
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / genetics*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Transcriptome

Grant support

This work was supported by the Research Grant Council’s General Research Fund (Ref: HKU 765513M).