Abstract / Description of output

Exposure to air pollution is associated with a range of diseases. Biomarkers derived from DNA methylation (DNAm) offer potential mechanistic insights into human health differences, connecting disease pathogenesis and biological ageing. However, little is known about sensitive periods during the life course where air pollution might have a stronger impact on DNAm, or whether effects accumulate over time. We examined associations between air pollution exposure across the life course and DNAm-based markers of biological ageing.

Data were derived from the Scotland-based Lothian Birth Cohort 1936. Participants’ residential history was linked to annual levels of fine particle (PM2.5), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3) around 1935, 1950, 1970, 1980, 1990, and 2001; pollutant concentrations were estimated using the EMEP4UK atmospheric chemistry transport model. Blood samples were obtained between ages of 70 and 80 years, and Horvath DNAmAge, Hannum DNAmAge, DNAmPhenoAge, DNAmGrimAge, and DNAm telomere length (DNAmTL) were computed. We applied the structured life-course modelling approach: least angle regression identified best-fit life-course models for a composite measure of air pollution (air quality index [AQI]), and mixed-effects regression estimated selected models for AQI and single pollutants.

We included 525 individuals with 1782 observations. In the total sample, increased air pollution around 1970 was associated with higher epigenetic age (AQI: b=0.322 year, 95%CI: 0.088, 0.555) measured with Horvath DNAmAge in late adulthood. We found shorter DNAmTL among males with higher air pollution around 1980 (AQI: b=-0.015 kilobase, 95%CI: -0.027, -0.004) and among females with higher exposure around 1935 (AQI: b=-0.017 kilobase, 95%CI: -0.028, -0.006). Findings were more consistent for the pollutants PM2.5, SO2 and NO2.

We tested the life-course relationship between air pollution and DNAm-based biomarkers. Air pollution around birth and in young-to-middle adulthood is linked to accelerated epigenetic ageing and telomere-associated ageing in later life.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107501
JournalEnvironment International
Early online date6 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022


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