Causes of blood methylomic variation for middle-aged women measured by the HumanMethylation450 array

<p>To address the limitations in current classic twin/family research on the genetic and/or environmental causes of human methylomic variation, we measured blood DNA methylation for 479 women (mean age 56 years) including 66 monozygotic (MZ), 66 dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs and 215 sisters of twins, and 11 random technical duplicates using the HumanMethylation450 array. For each methylation site, we estimated the correlation for pairs of duplicates, MZ twins, DZ twins, and siblings, fitted variance component models by assuming the variation is explained by genetic factors, by shared and individual environmental factors, and by independent measurement error, and assessed the best fitting model. We found that the average (standard deviation) correlations for duplicate, MZ, DZ, and sibling pairs were 0.10 (0.35), 0.07 (0.21), -0.01 (0.14) and -0.04 (0.07). At the genome-wide significance level of 10<sup>−7</sup>, 93.3% of sites had no familial correlation, and 5.6%, 0.1%, and 0.2% of sites were correlated for MZ, DZ, and sibling pairs. For 86.4%, 6.9%, and 7.1% of sites, the best fitting model included measurement error only, a genetic component, and at least one environmental component. For the 13.6% of sites influenced by genetic and/or environmental factors, the average proportion of variance explained by environmental factors was greater than that explained by genetic factors (0.41 vs. 0.37, <i>P</i> value <10<sup>−15</sup>). Our results are consistent with, for middle-aged woman, blood methylomic variation measured by the HumanMethylation450 array being largely explained by measurement error, and more influenced by environmental factors than by genetic factors.</p>