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Aging (Albany NY). 2012 Jul;4(7):509-20.

Space/population and time/age in DNA methylation variability in humans: a study on IGF2/H19 locus in different Italian populations and in mono- and di-zygotic twins of different age.

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  • 1CIG - Interdipartimental Center L. Galvani, University of Bologna, Italy.

Abstract

Little is known about the impact of space (geography/ancestry) and time (age of the individuals) on DNA methylation variability in humans. We investigated DNA methylation of the imprinted IGF2/H19 locus in: i) a cohort of individuals homogeneous for age and gender (males with restricted age range: 30-50 years) belonging to four Italian districts representative of the major genetic clines, informative for the geographical dimension; ii) a cohort of monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins of different ages (age-range: 22-97 years), informative for the temporal dimension. DNA methylation of the analyzed regions displayed high levels of inter-individual variability that could not be ascribed to any geographical cline. In MZ twins we identified two IGF2/H19 regions where the intra-couple variations significantly increased after the age of 60 years. The analysis of twins' individual life histories suggests that the within twin pairs difference is likely the result of the aging process itself, as sharing a common environment for long periods had no effect on DNA methylation divergence. On the whole, the data here reported suggest that: i) aging more than population genetics is responsible for the inter-individual variability in DNA methylation patterns in humans; ii) DNA methylation variability appears to be highly region-specific.

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