Candidates for public office never seem to learn that you can’t escape your past. It’s almost like they’ve never even heard of Google or YouTube or something! Speaking of not letting go of the past, we’ve seen a few papers recently suggesting that some epigenetic changes in early life can stick around for decades. Now, researchers in Canada and the U.K. find that even socio-economic position (SEP) in childhood is associated with DNA methylation differences many years later.
The researchers analyzed DNA from blood samples collected from 45-year-old men enrolled in the 1958 British Birth Cohort Study. The team classified the subjects once according to their childhood SEPs, and again according to their adult SEPs. Using MeDIP data to compare the two, they found:
- 6176 gene promoters were variably methylated.
- Variable methylation wasn’t random—it clustered throughout the genome. Chromosome 5 (a hot spot for regions often hypermethylated in breast tumors) was especially enriched in variably methylated promoters.
- The methylation statuses of 1252 promoters were associated with childhood SEP, and the methylation statuses of 545 promoters were associated with adult SEP. These sets of variable promoters didn’t overlap much.
Therefore, the researchers say that methylation patterns on DNA taken from adults have more associations with childhood SEP than with adult SEP. In other words, having a disadvantaged (or advantaged) background may have long-lasting effects on your biology.
Upgrade your epigenetic status by reading the full article at International Journal of Epidemiology, October 2011.