Harbs J, Rinaldi S, Keski-Rahkonen P, Liu X, Palmqvist R, Van Guelpen B, Harlid S
Epigenetics 18 (1) 2196759 [2023-12-00; online 2023-03-31]
Endogenous sex hormones and DNA methylation both play important roles in various diseases. However, their interplay is largely unknown. A deeper understanding of their interrelationships could provide new insights into the pathology of disease development. We, therefore, investigated associations between circulating sex hormones, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), and DNA methylation in blood, using samples from 77 men (65 with repeated samples), from the population-based Northern Sweden Health and Disease Study (NSHDS). DNA methylation was measured in buffy coat using the Infinium Methylation EPIC BeadChip (Illumina). Sex hormone (oestradiol, oestrone, testosterone, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone, and progesterone) and SHBG concentrations were measured in plasma using a high-performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS-MS) method and an enzyme-linked immunoassay, respectively. Associations between sex hormones, SHBG, and DNA methylation were estimated using both linear regression and mixed-effects models. Additionally, we used the comb-p method to identify differentially methylated regions based on nearby P values. We identified one novel CpG site (cg14319657), at which DNA methylation was associated with dehydroepiandrosterone, surpassing a genome-wide significance level. In addition, more than 40 differentially methylated regions were associated with levels of sex hormones and SHBG and several of these mapped to genes involved in hormone-related diseases. Our findings support a relationship between circulating sex hormones and DNA methylation and suggest that further investigation is warranted, both for validation, further exploration and to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms and potential consequences for health and disease.