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Environ Health Perspect. 2019 May;127(5):57011. doi: 10.1289/EHP3849. Epub 2019 May 28.

Association of Arsenic Exposure with Whole Blood DNA Methylation: An Epigenome-Wide Study of Bangladeshi Adults.

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Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
UChicago Research Bangladesh, Mohakhali, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Research and Evaluation Division, BRAC, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA.
Unit of Metals and Health, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.
Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Department of Laboratory Medicine, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
Department of Human Genetics, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.



Arsenic exposure affects [Formula: see text] people worldwide, including [Formula: see text] in Bangladesh. Arsenic exposure increases the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, and one potential mechanism of arsenic toxicity is epigenetic dysregulation.


We assessed associations between arsenic exposure and genome-wide DNA methylation measured at baseline among 396 Bangladeshi adults participating in the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS) who were exposed by drinking naturally contaminated well water.


Methylation in whole blood DNA was measured at [Formula: see text] using the Illumina InfiniumMethylationEPIC (EPIC) array. To assess associations between arsenic exposure and CpG methylation, we used linear regression models adjusted for covariates and surrogate variables (SVs) (capturing unknown technical and biologic factors). We attempted replication and conducted a meta-analysis using an independent dataset of [Formula: see text] from 400 Bangladeshi individuals with arsenical skin lesions.


We identified 34 CpGs associated with [Formula: see text] creatinine-adjusted urinary arsenic [[Formula: see text]]. Sixteen of these CpGs annotated to the [Formula: see text] array, and 10 associations were replicated ([Formula: see text]). The top two CpGs annotated upstream of the ABR gene (cg01912040, cg10003262 ). All urinary arsenic-associated CpGs were also associated with arsenic concentration measured in drinking water ([Formula: see text]). Meta-analysis ([Formula: see text] samples) identified 221 urinary arsenic-associated CpGs ([Formula: see text]). The arsenic-associated CpGs from the meta-analysis were enriched in non-CpG islands and shores ([Formula: see text]) and depleted in promoter regions ([Formula: see text]). Among the arsenic-associated CpGs ([Formula: see text]), we observed significant enrichment of genes annotating to the reactive oxygen species pathway, inflammatory response, and tumor necrosis factor [Formula: see text] ([Formula: see text]) signaling via nuclear factor kappa-B ([Formula: see text]) hallmarks ([Formula: see text]).


The novel and replicable associations between arsenic exposure and DNA methylation at specific CpGs observed in this work suggest that epigenetic alterations should be further investigated as potential mediators in arsenic toxicity and as biomarkers of exposure and effect in exposed populations.

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