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The heritability and patterns of DNA methylation in normal human colorectum

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2600-2611
JournalHuman Molecular Genetics
Issue number12
Early online date2 Mar 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Mar 2016


DNA methylation (DNAm) has been linked to changes in chromatin structure, gene expression and disease. DNAm level can be affected by genetic variation; although, how this differs by CpG dinucleotide density and genic location of the DNAm site is not well understood. Moreover, the effect of disease causing variants on DNAm level in a tissue relevant to disease has yet to be fully elucidated. To this end, we investigated the phenotypic profiles, genetic effects and regional genomic heritability for 196080 DNAm sites in healthy colorectum tissue from 132 unrelated Colombian individuals. DNAm sites in regions of low CpG density were more variable, on average more methylated and were more likely to be significantly heritable when compared to DNAm sites in regions of high CpG density. DNAm sites located in intergenic regions had a higher mean DNAm level and were more likely to be heritable when compared to DNAm sites in the transcription start site (TSS) of a gene expressed in colon tissue. Within CpG dense regions, the propensity of DNAm level to be heritable was lower in the TSS of genes expressed in colon tissue than in the TSS of genes not expressed in colon tissue. In addition, regional genetic variation was associated with variation in local DNAm level no more frequently for DNAm sites within colorectal cancer (CRC) risk regions than it was for DNAm sites outside such regions. Overall, DNAm sites located in different genomic contexts exhibited distinguishable profiles and may have a different biological function.

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