January 20, 2009

Epigenetics via twin studies

Coverage elsewhere:
Epigenetics reveals unexpected, and some identical, results
Inherited traits may explain differences in 'identical' twins
Related: In search of the Hidden Heritability

Nature Genetics doi: 10.1038/ng.286

DNA methylation profiles in monozygotic and dizygotic twins

Zachary A Kaminsky et al.


Twin studies have provided the basis for genetic and epidemiological studies in human complex traits. As epigenetic factors can contribute to phenotypic outcomes, we conducted a DNA methylation analysis in white blood cells (WBC), buccal epithelial cells and gut biopsies of 114 monozygotic (MZ) twins as well as WBC and buccal epithelial cells of 80 dizygotic (DZ) twins using 12K CpG island microarrays. Here we provide the first annotation of epigenetic metastability of approx6,000 unique genomic regions in MZ twins. An intraclass correlation (ICC)-based comparison of matched MZ and DZ twins showed significantly higher epigenetic difference in buccal cells of DZ co-twins (P = 1.2 times 10-294). Although such higher epigenetic discordance in DZ twins can result from DNA sequence differences, our in silico SNP analyses and animal studies favor the hypothesis that it is due to epigenomic differences in the zygotes, suggesting that molecular mechanisms of heritability may not be limited to DNA sequence differences.


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