Alzheimer's disease-associated (hydroxy)methylomic changes in the brain and blood

Clin Epigenetics. 2019 Nov 27;11(1):164. doi: 10.1186/s13148-019-0755-5.


Background: Late-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a complex multifactorial affliction, the pathogenesis of which is thought to involve gene-environment interactions that might be captured in the epigenome. The present study investigated epigenome-wide patterns of DNA methylation (5-methylcytosine, 5mC) and hydroxymethylation (5-hydroxymethylcytosine, 5hmC), as well as the abundance of unmodified cytosine (UC), in relation to AD.

Results: We identified epigenetic differences in AD patients (n = 45) as compared to age-matched controls (n = 35) in the middle temporal gyrus, pertaining to genomic regions close to or overlapping with genes such as OXT (- 3.76% 5mC, pŠidák = 1.07E-06), CHRNB1 (+ 1.46% 5hmC, pŠidák = 4.01E-04), RHBDF2 (- 3.45% UC, pŠidák = 4.85E-06), and C3 (- 1.20% UC, pŠidák = 1.57E-03). In parallel, in an independent cohort, we compared the blood methylome of converters to AD dementia (n = 54) and non-converters (n = 42), at a preclinical stage. DNA methylation in the same region of the OXT promoter as found in the brain was found to be associated with subsequent conversion to AD dementia in the blood of elderly, non-demented individuals (+ 3.43% 5mC, pŠidák = 7.14E-04).

Conclusions: The implication of genome-wide significant differential methylation of OXT, encoding oxytocin, in two independent cohorts indicates it is a promising target for future studies on early biomarkers and novel therapeutic strategies in AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Blood; Brain; DNA hydroxymethylation; DNA methylation; Epigenetics; Middle temporal gyrus.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 5-Methylcytosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • 5-Methylcytosine / analysis
  • 5-Methylcytosine / blood
  • 5-Methylcytosine / metabolism
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics*
  • Brain Chemistry
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Disease Progression
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Male
  • Oxytocin / genetics
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / genetics
  • Temporal Lobe / chemistry*


  • CHRNB1 protein, human
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • RHBDF2 protein, human
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • 5-hydroxymethylcytosine
  • Oxytocin
  • 5-Methylcytosine