DNA Methylation in the Adipose Tissue and Whole Blood of Agent Orange-exposed Operation Ranch Hand Veterans
BackgroundBetween 1962 and 1971, the US Air Force sprayed Agent Orange across Vietnam, exposing many soldiers to this dioxin-containing herbicide. Several negative health outcomes have been linked to Agent Orange exposure, but data is lacking on the effects this chemical has on the genome. Therefore, we sought to characterize the impact of Agent Orange exposure on DNA methylation in the whole blood and adipose tissue of veterans enrolled in the Air Force Health Study (AFHS). MethodsWe received
... MethodsWe received adipose tissue (n=37) and whole blood (n=42) from veterans in the AFHS. Study participants were grouped as having low, moderate, or high TCDD body burden based on their previously measured serum levels of dioxin. DNA methylation was assessed using the Illumina 450K platform.ResultsEpigenome-wide analysis indicated that there were no FDR-significantly methylated CpGs in either tissue with TCDD burden. However, 3 CpGs in the adipose tissue (contained within SLC9A3, LYNX1, and TNRC18) were marginally significantly (q<0.1) hypomethylated, and 1 CpG in whole blood (contained within PTPRN2) was marginally significantly (q<0.1) hypermethylated with high TCDD burden. Analysis for differentially methylated DNA regions yielded SLC9A3, among other regions in adipose tissue, to be significantly differentially methylated with higher TCDD burden. Comparing whole blood data to a study of dioxin exposed adults from Alabama identified a CpG within the gene SMO that was hypomethylated with dioxin exposure in both studies. ConclusionWe found limited evidence of dioxin associated DNA methylation in adipose tissue and whole blood in this pilot study of Vietnam War veterans. Nevertheless, loci in the genes of SLC9A3 in adipose tissue, and PTPRN2 and SMO in whole blood, should be included in future exposure analyses.