Age‐dependent DNA methylation patterns on the Y chromosome in elderly males
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The Y chromosome, a sex chromosome that only exists in males, has been ignored in traditional epigenetic association studies for multiple reasons. However, sex differences in aging‐related phenotypes and mortality could suggest a critical role of the sex chromosomes in the aging process. We obtained blood‐based DNA methylation data on the Y chromosome for 624 men from four cohorts and performed a chromosome‐wide epigenetic association analysis to detect Y‐linked CpGs differentially methylated over age and cross‐validated the significant CpGs in the four cohorts. We identified 40–219 significant CpG sites (false discovery rate <0.05) with >82% of them hypermethylated with increasing age, which is in strong contrast to the patterns reported on the autosomal chromosomes. Comparing the rate of change in the Y‐linked DNA methylation across cohorts that represent different age intervals revealed a trend of acceleration in DNA methylation with increasing age. The age‐dependent DNA methylation patterns on the Y chromosome were further examined for their association with all‐cause mortality with results suggesting that the predominant pattern of age‐related hypermethylation on the Y chromosome is associated with reduced risk of death.