Methylation patterns associated with C-reactive protein in racially and ethnically diverse populations

Epigenetics. 2024 Dec;19(1):2333668. doi: 10.1080/15592294.2024.2333668. Epub 2024 Apr 3.


Systemic low-grade inflammation is a feature of chronic disease. C-reactive protein (CRP) is a common biomarker of inflammation and used as an indicator of disease risk; however, the role of inflammation in disease is not completely understood. Methylation is an epigenetic modification in the DNA which plays a pivotal role in gene expression. In this study we evaluated differential DNA methylation patterns associated with blood CRP level to elucidate biological pathways and genetic regulatory mechanisms to improve the understanding of chronic inflammation. The racially and ethnically diverse participants in this study were included as 50% White, 41% Black or African American, 7% Hispanic or Latino/a, and 2% Native Hawaiian, Asian American, American Indian, or Alaska Native (total n = 13,433) individuals. We replicated 113 CpG sites from 87 unique loci, of which five were novel (CADM3, NALCN, NLRC5, ZNF792, and cg03282312), across a discovery set of 1,150 CpG sites associated with CRP level (p < 1.2E-7). The downstream pathways affected by DNA methylation included the identification of IFI16 and IRF7 CpG-gene transcript pairs which contributed to the innate immune response gene enrichment pathway along with NLRC5, NOD2, and AIM2. Gene enrichment analysis also identified the nuclear factor-kappaB transcription pathway. Using two-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) we inferred methylation at three CpG sites as causal for CRP levels using both White and Black or African American MR instrument variables. Overall, we identified novel CpG sites and gene transcripts that could be valuable in understanding the specific cellular processes and pathogenic mechanisms involved in inflammation.

Keywords: C-reactive protein; EWAS; Inflammation; Mendelian randomization; causal pathway; epigenetics; methylation; racial and ethnic diversity.

MeSH terms

  • C-Reactive Protein* / genetics
  • CpG Islands
  • DNA
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics


  • C-Reactive Protein
  • DNA
  • NLRC5 protein, human
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins

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