The Effect of Tobacco Smoking Differs across Indices of DNA Methylation-Based Aging in an African American Sample: DNA Methylation-Based Indices of Smoking Capture These Effects

Genes (Basel). 2020 Mar 14;11(3):311. doi: 10.3390/genes11030311.


Smoking is one of the leading preventable causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, prompting interest in its association with DNA methylation-based measures of biological aging. Considerable progress has been made in developing DNA methylation-based measures that correspond to self-reported smoking status. In addition, assessment of DNA methylation-based aging has been expanded to better capture individual differences in risk for morbidity and mortality. Untested to date, however, is whether smoking is similarly related to older and newer indices of DNA methylation-based aging, and whether DNA methylation-based indices of smoking can be used in lieu of self-reported smoking to examine effects on DNA methylation-based aging measures. In the current investigation we examine mediation of the impact of self-reported cigarette consumption on accelerated, intrinsic DNA methylation-based aging using indices designed to predict chronological aging, phenotypic aging, and mortality risk, as well as a newly developed DNA methylation-based measure of telomere length. Using a sample of 500 African American middle aged smokers and non-smokers, we found that a) self-reported cigarette consumption was associated with accelerated intrinsic DNA methylation-based aging on some but not all DNA methylation-based aging indices, b) for those aging outcomes associated with self-reported cigarette consumption, DNA methylation-based indicators of smoking typically accounted for greater variance than did self-reported cigarette consumption, and c) self-reported cigarette consumption effects on DNA methylation-based aging indices typically were fully mediated by DNA methylation-based indicators of smoking (e.g., PACKYRS from GrimAge; or cg05575921 CpG site). Results suggest that when DNA methylation-based indices of smoking are substituted for self-reported assessments of smoking, they will typically fully reflect the varied impact of cigarette smoking on intrinsic, accelerated DNA methylation-based aging.

Keywords: African American; DNA methylation-based aging; methylation-based assessment; self-report cigarette consumption; smoking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Aging / pathology
  • Black or African American / genetics
  • CpG Islands / genetics
  • DNA Methylation / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Report
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / genetics
  • Telomere Homeostasis / genetics
  • Tobacco Smoking / adverse effects
  • Tobacco Smoking / genetics*
  • Tobacco Smoking / pathology