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Epigenetics Chromatin. 2017 Apr 27;10:21. doi: 10.1186/s13072-017-0128-2. eCollection 2017.

Differential DNA methylation and lymphocyte proportions in a Costa Rican high longevity region.

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Department of Medical Genetics, Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics, BC Children's Hospital Research Institute, University of British Columbia, 950 West 28th Ave, Vancouver, Canada.
School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA USA.
Centro Centroamericano de Población, Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica.
Division of General Medical Disciplines, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, Stanford University, 1070 Arastradero Road, Suite 300, Palo Alto, CA 94304 USA.



The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica has one of the highest old-age life expectancies in the world, but the underlying biological mechanisms of this longevity are not well understood. As DNA methylation is hypothesized to be a component of biological aging, we focused on this malleable epigenetic mark to determine its association with current residence in Nicoya versus elsewhere in Costa Rica. Examining a population's unique DNA methylation pattern allows us to differentiate hallmarks of longevity from individual stochastic variation. These differences may be characteristic of a combination of social, biological, and environmental contexts.


In a cross-sectional subsample of the Costa Rican Longevity and Healthy Aging Study, we compared whole blood DNA methylation profiles of residents from Nicoya (n = 48) and non-Nicoya (other Costa Rican regions, n = 47) using the Infinium HumanMethylation450 microarray.


We observed a number of differences that may be markers of delayed aging, such as bioinformatically derived differential CD8+ T cell proportions. Additionally, both site- and region-specific analyses revealed DNA methylation patterns unique to Nicoyans. We also observed lower overall variability in DNA methylation in the Nicoyan population, another hallmark of younger biological age.


Nicoyans represent an interesting group of individuals who may possess unique immune cell proportions as well as distinct differences in their epigenome, at the level of DNA methylation.


Biodemography; DNA methylation; Epigenetic age; Epigenetics; Immune aging; Longevity

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