Crohn's disease (CD) is a multifactorial incurable chronic disorder. Current medical treatment seeks to induce and maintain a state of remission. During episodes of inflammation, monocytes infiltrate the inflamed mucosa whereupon they differentiate into macrophages with a pro-inflammatory phenotype. Here, we sought to characterize the circulating monocytes by profiling their DNA methylome and relate it to the level of CD activity. We gathered an all-female age-matched cohort of 16 CD patients and 7 non-CD volunteers. CD patients were further subdivided into 8 CD patients with active disease (CD-active) and 8 CD patients in remission (CD-remissive) as determined by the physician global assessment. We identified 15 and 12 differentially methylated genes (DMGs) when comparing CD with non-CD and CD-active with CD-remissive, respectively. Differential methylation was predominantly found in the promoter regions of inflammatory genes. Comparing our observations with gene expression data on classical (CD14++CD16-), non-classical (CD14+CD16++) and intermediate (CD14++CD16+) monocytes indicated that while 7 DMGs were differentially expressed across the 3 subsets, the remaining DMGs could not immediately be associated with differences in known populations. We conclude that CD activity is associated with differences in DNA methylation at the promoter region of inflammation-associated genes.
Keywords: CD-activity; CD14+ monocytes; Crohn’s disease; DNA methylation.