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Chronobiol Int. 2011 Dec;28(10):852-61. doi: 10.3109/07420528.2011.618896.

Epigenetic impact of long-term shiftwork: pilot evidence from circadian genes and whole-genome methylation analysis.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA. yong.zhu@yale.edu

Abstract

Epigenetic association studies have demonstrated differential promoter methylation in the core circadian genes in breast cancer cases relative to cancer-free controls. The current pilot study aims to investigate whether epigenetic changes affecting breast cancer risk could be caused by circadian disruption through exposure to light at night. Archived DNA samples extracted from whole blood of 117 female subjects from a prospective cohort conducted in Denmark were included in this study. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based method was used for detection of gene-promoter methylation, whereas genome-wide methylation analysis was performed using the Illumina Infinium Methylation Chip. Long-term shiftwork resulted in the same promoter hypomethylation of CLOCK and hypermethylation of CRY2, as was previously observed in breast cancer case-control studies. Genome-wide methylation analysis further discovered widespread methylation alterations in shiftworkers, including changes in many methylation- and cancer-relevant genes. Pathway analysis of the genes with altered methylation patterns revealed several cancer-related pathways. One of the top three networks generated was designated as "DNA replication, recombination, and repair, gene expression, behavior" with ESR1 (estrogen receptor α) featured most prominently in the network, underscoring the potential breast cancer relevance of the genes differentially methylated in long-term shiftworkers. These results, although exploratory, demonstrate the first evidence of the cancer-relevant epigenetic effects of night shiftwork, which warrant further investigation. Considering there are millions of shiftworkers worldwide, understanding the effects of this exposure may lead to novel strategies for cancer prevention and new policies regulating shiftwork.

PMID:
22080730
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3631105
Free PMC Article
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