Summertime is here, and that means that we’ll all be spending more time outdoors and in the sun. But, while you are out there doing your best to get as tan as the cast of Baywatch, some new details about how age and sun exposure can change your skin’s DNA methylation patterns may make you think twice about overdoing it.
R&D scientists at the skin-care product company Beiersdorf AG teamed up with the German Cancer Research Center to check out how aging and sun exposure affect the skin. We’ve all seen the pictures of George Hamilton, so we know that too much sun and aging have to be doing something! The researchers used microarrays scope out the global methylation patterns in skin samples from 50 volunteers, and then confirmed those results at specific loci by bisulfite sequencing. Here’s what they found:
- There was very little variation between individuals within tissues.
- They were able to sort patients by age and sun exposure based on global methylation patterns.
- Changes in methylation were not random and widespread, but relatively few, and very specific.
- Aging was identified by hypermethylation of only a few (<1%) markers.
- Chronic sun exposure showed a totally different pattern characterized by hypomethylation.
The ability to see such identifiable and consistent changes suggests that DNA methylation’s role in the changing phenotypes caused by age and the environment is more than just skin-deep.
Put away your Speedo and go check out the full article at PLoS Genetics, May 2010