Genome-wide DNA methylation analysis on C-reactive protein among Ghanaians suggests molecular links to the emerging risk of cardiovascular diseases

NPJ Genom Med. 2021 Jun 11;6(1):46. doi: 10.1038/s41525-021-00213-9.


Molecular mechanisms at the intersection of inflammation and cardiovascular diseases (CVD) among Africans are still unknown. We performed an epigenome-wide association study to identify loci associated with serum C-reactive protein (marker of inflammation) among Ghanaians and further assessed whether differentially methylated positions (DMPs) were linked to CVD in previous reports, or to estimated CVD risk in the same population. We used the Illumina Infinium® HumanMethylation450 BeadChip to obtain DNAm profiles of blood samples in 589 Ghanaians from the RODAM study (without acute infections, not taking anti-inflammatory medications, CRP levels < 40 mg/L). We then used linear models to identify DMPs associated with CRP concentrations. Post-hoc, we evaluated associations of identified DMPs with elevated CVD risk estimated via ASCVD risk score. We also performed subset analyses at CRP levels ≤10 mg/L and replication analyses on candidate probes. Finally, we assessed for biological relevance of our findings in public databases. We subsequently identified 14 novel DMPs associated with CRP. In post-hoc evaluations, we found that DMPs in PC, BTG4 and PADI1 showed trends of associations with estimated CVD risk, we identified a separate DMP in MORC2 that was associated with CRP levels ≤10 mg/L, and we successfully replicated 65 (24%) of previously reported DMPs. All DMPs with gene annotations (13) were biologically linked to inflammation or CVD traits. We have identified epigenetic loci that may play a role in the intersection between inflammation and CVD among Ghanaians. Further studies among other Africans are needed to confirm our findings.