Format

Send to

Choose Destination
Mol Psychiatry. 2017 Dec;22(12):1680-1690. doi: 10.1038/mp.2017.210. Epub 2017 Oct 31.

An epigenome-wide association study meta-analysis of educational attainment.

Author information

1
Department of Complex Trait Genetics, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
2
Institute for Behavior and Biology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
3
Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
4
Medical Genetics Section, Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
5
Department of Applied Economics, Erasmus School of Economics, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
6
Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
7
Insight Centre for Data Analytics, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland.
8
MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, Bristol Medical School (Population Health Sciences), University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.
9
Mathematics and Statistics, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA, Australia.
10
Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.
11
National Institute for Health and Welfare, Genomics and Biomarkers, Helsinki, Finland.
12
Research Unit of Molecular Epidemiology (AME), Institute of Epidemiology II, Helmholtz Zentrum München, German Research Center for Environmental Health, Neuherberg, Germany.
13
Department of Genetics, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
14
Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology Unit, Italian Institute for Genomic Medicine (IIGM), Turin, Italy.
15
Department of Medical Sciences, University of Torino, Turin, Italy.
16
Department Translational Research in Psychiatry, Max-Planck-Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany.
17
Estonian Genome Center, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia.
18
Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia.
19
Institute of Behavioural Studies, Siltavuorenpenger 1A, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.
20
Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.
21
Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, Australia.
22
Department of Clinical Chemistry, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
23
Department of Internal Medicine, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
24
Department of Clinical Chemistry, Fimlab Laboratories, Tampere, Finland.
25
Department of Clinical Chemistry, Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.
26
Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
27
Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health, Inserm (Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale), Villejuif, France.
28
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA.
29
Cancer Epidemiology and Intelligence Division, Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.
30
Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.
31
Human Genetics and Biostatistics, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
32
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.
33
Gerontology Research Center, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.
34
Fimlab Laboratories, Tampere, Finland.
35
Department of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm, Sweden.
36
Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.
37
Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, Psychiatry, UNSW Australia, Sydney, NSW, Australia.
38
Psychiatric Genetics, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Herston, QLD, Australia.
39
Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
40
Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health (CESP UMR Inserm 1018), Université Paris-Saclay, UPS, UVSQ and Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, France.
41
Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
42
Netherlands Consortium for Healthy Ageing, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
43
Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland.
44
National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland.
45
Folkhälsan Research Center, Helsinki, Finland.
46
Program in Medical and Population Genetics, Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA, USA.
47
Department of Clinical Physiology, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland.
48
Department of Clinical Physiology, Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.
49
Genetic Epidemiology, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Herston, QLD, Australia.
50
Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland.
51
Research Centre of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.
52
Neuropsychiatric Institute, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randiwick, NSW, Australia.
53
Department of Neurology,VU University Medical Center (VUMC), Alzheimer Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
54
MRC/PHE Centre for Environment and Health, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK.
55
Queensland Brain Institute and Centre for Advanced Imaging, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.
56
Center for Economic and Social Research, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Abstract

The epigenome is associated with biological factors, such as disease status, and environmental factors, such as smoking, alcohol consumption and body mass index. Although there is a widespread perception that environmental influences on the epigenome are pervasive and profound, there has been little evidence to date in humans with respect to environmental factors that are biologically distal. Here we provide evidence on the associations between epigenetic modifications-in our case, CpG methylation-and educational attainment (EA), a biologically distal environmental factor that is arguably among the most important life-shaping experiences for individuals. Specifically, we report the results of an epigenome-wide association study meta-analysis of EA based on data from 27 cohort studies with a total of 10 767 individuals. We find nine CpG probes significantly associated with EA. However, robustness analyses show that all nine probes have previously been found to be associated with smoking. Only two associations remain when we perform a sensitivity analysis in the subset of never-smokers, and these two probes are known to be strongly associated with maternal smoking during pregnancy, and thus their association with EA could be due to correlation between EA and maternal smoking. Moreover, the effect sizes of the associations with EA are far smaller than the known associations with the biologically proximal environmental factors alcohol consumption, body mass index, smoking and maternal smoking during pregnancy. Follow-up analyses that combine the effects of many probes also point to small methylation associations with EA that are highly correlated with the combined effects of smoking. If our findings regarding EA can be generalized to other biologically distal environmental factors, then they cast doubt on the hypothesis that such factors have large effects on the epigenome.

PMID:
29086770
PMCID:
PMC6372242
DOI:
10.1038/mp.2017.210
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center