Comparing Methylation of CRP and IL-6 Associated Genes in Cognitively Impaired Mexican Americans to Non-Hispanic Whites




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Purpose: A large pool of literature shows that Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) results from inflammatory processes and neuronal loss via tau proteins and amyloid-β plaques. Mexican Americans are among those with the highest risk of developing Alzheimer’s and research into the epigenetics of this association is lacking. Methylation alterations are influenced by both genetic and lifestyle factors, which can help us identify the root cause of mild cognitive impairment, a precursor for Alzheimer’s Disease. C-reactive protein and interleukin 6 are well known for their roles in measuring systemic inflammation. This study seeks to explore if there is a significant difference between DNA methylation of CpG Islands for CRP and IL6-associated genes in Cognitively Impaired Mexican Americans (MA) and Non-Hispanic Whites (NHW). Methods: Participants were selected from the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium (TARCC) database. The final cohort (n = 551) consisted of 252 NHW (143 normal cognition (NC), and 109 cognitively impaired (CI)) and 299 MA participants (177 NC and 122 CI). Each participant underwent neurocognitive tests such as Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) and Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) to determine cognitive status. Methylation at CpG sites was measured by array probes as beta values with 0=unmethylated, to 1=fully methylated site. CpG sites associated with CRP are cg06126421, cg10636246, cg18181703, cg19821297, and cg25325512. CpG sites associated with IL6 are cg12929678, cg17412005, cg19638572, cg20789595. Any differences between cognitively impaired participants and normal controls were assessed using the standard two-sample t-test assuming unequal variances in Rstudio. Linear Regression was performed in Rstudio, and covariates that were adjusted for include age, sex, education level (in years), APOE ɛ4 allele status, CD8 T-cells, CD4 T-cells, natural killer cells, B-cells, monocytes, and neutrophils. Results: In Mexican Americans, the CRP-associated sites showed: cg25325512 (gene FGD2) with significant hypomethylation in the CI group (p=0.0003). Cg19821297 (gene DNASE2) with significant hypomethylation in the CI group (p=0.015). Cg10636246 (genes AIM2 & IF116) had significant CI group hypomethylation (p=0.02). In Non-Hispanic Whites, one CRP-associated site showed significant hypermethylation in the CI group, cg06690548 (gene TUBB) (p=0.026). In Mexican Americans, the IL6-associated sites showed: cg17412005 (gene MUTYH & TOE1) with significant hypomethylation in the CI group (p=0.022). Cg19638572 (gene RASSF5) with significant hypermethylation in the CI group (p=0.013). Cg20789595 (gene ADCY5) with significant hypomethylation in the CI group (p<0.001). In Non-Hispanic Whites, zero IL6-associated sites showed any significant methylation between the CI and NC groups. Conclusion: Epigenetics related to AD is still being further investigated. This study suggests an association between hypomethylated CRP and IL6 genes and cognitive impairment in the Mexican American population. Limitations in this study include a limited number of CpG sites investigated, as well as possible comorbidities that should be adjusted for. There were also an unequal number of MA to NHW participants. Further studies should adjust for inflammatory comorbidities, such as metabolic syndrome, and further investigation is warranted into the FGD2 gene and ADCY5 gene as they were strongly correlated with hypomethylation in the cognitively impaired Mexican American population.