Epigenome-wide exploratory study of monozygotic twins suggests differentially methylated regions to associate with hand grip strength

Mette Soerensen*, Weilong Li, Birgit Debrabant, Marianne Nygaard, Jonas Mengel-From, Morten Frost, Kaare Christensen, Lene Christiansen, Qihua Tan


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Hand grip strength is a measure of muscular strength and is used to study age-related loss of physical capacity. In order to explore the biological mechanisms that influence hand grip strength variation, an epigenome-wide association study (EWAS) of hand grip strength in 672 middle-aged and elderly monozygotic twins (age 55-90 years) was performed, using both individual and twin pair level analyses, the latter controlling the influence of genetic variation. Moreover, as measurements of hand grip strength performed over 8 years were available in the elderly twins (age 73-90 at intake), a longitudinal EWAS was conducted for this subsample. No genome-wide significant CpG sites or pathways were found, however two of the suggestive top CpG sites were mapped to the COL6A1 and CACNA1B genes, known to be related to muscular dysfunction. By investigating genomic regions using the comb-p algorithm, several differentially methylated regions in regulatory domains were identified as significantly associated to hand grip strength, and pathway analyses of these regions revealed significant pathways related to the immune system, autoimmune disorders, including diabetes type 1 and viral myocarditis, as well as negative regulation of cell differentiation. The genes contributing to the immunological pathways were HLA-B, HLA-C, HLA-DMA, HLA-DPB1, MYH10, ERAP1 and IRF8, while the genes implicated in the negative regulation of cell differentiation were IRF8, CEBPD, ID2 and BRCA1. In conclusion, this exploratory study suggests hand grip strength to associate with differentially methylated regions enriched in immunological and cell differentiation pathways, and hence merits further investigations.
Udgave nummer5
Sider (fra-til)627-647
StatusUdgivet - okt. 2019


  • Comb-p
  • Epigenome-wide association study
  • Hand grip strength
  • Longitudinal data
  • Pathway analyses
  • Twin data


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