Oxidative stress gene expression, DNA methylation, and gut microbiota interaction trigger Crohn's disease: a multi-omics Mendelian randomization study

BMC Med. 2023 May 11;21(1):179. doi: 10.1186/s12916-023-02878-8.


Background: Oxidative stress (OS) is a key pathophysiological mechanism in Crohn's disease (CD). OS-related genes can be affected by environmental factors, intestinal inflammation, gut microbiota, and epigenetic changes. However, the role of OS as a potential CD etiological factor or triggering factor is unknown, as differentially expressed OS genes in CD can be either a cause or a subsequent change of intestinal inflammation. Herein, we used a multi-omics summary data-based Mendelian randomization (SMR) approach to identify putative causal effects and underlying mechanisms of OS genes in CD.

Methods: OS-related genes were extracted from the GeneCards database. Intestinal transcriptome datasets were collected from the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) database and meta-analyzed to identify differentially expressed genes (DEGs) related to OS in CD. Integration analyses of the largest CD genome-wide association study (GWAS) summaries with expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) and DNA methylation QTLs (mQTLs) from the blood were performed using SMR methods to prioritize putative blood OS genes and their regulatory elements associated with CD risk. Up-to-date intestinal eQTLs and fecal microbial QTLs (mbQTLs) were integrated to uncover potential interactions between host OS gene expression and gut microbiota through SMR and colocalization analysis. Two additional Mendelian randomization (MR) methods were used as sensitivity analyses. Putative results were validated in an independent multi-omics cohort from the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University (FAH-SYS).

Results: A meta-analysis from six datasets identified 438 OS-related DEGs enriched in intestinal enterocytes in CD from 817 OS-related genes. Five genes from blood tissue were prioritized as candidate CD-causal genes using three-step SMR methods: BAD, SHC1, STAT3, MUC1, and GPX3. Furthermore, SMR analysis also identified five putative intestinal genes, three of which were involved in gene-microbiota interactions through colocalization analysis: MUC1, CD40, and PRKAB1. Validation results showed that 88.79% of DEGs were replicated in the FAH-SYS cohort. Associations between pairs of MUC1-Bacillus aciditolerans and PRKAB1-Escherichia coli in the FAH-SYS cohort were consistent with eQTL-mbQTL colocalization.

Conclusions: This multi-omics integration study highlighted that OS genes causal to CD are regulated by DNA methylation and host-microbiota interactions. This provides evidence for future targeted functional research aimed at developing suitable therapeutic interventions and disease prevention.

Keywords: Crohn’s disease; Integrative omics; Mendelian randomization; Oxidative stress.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Crohn Disease* / genetics
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome* / genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis / methods
  • Multiomics
  • Oxidative Stress / genetics
  • Transcriptome