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Aging and genome-wide patterns of DNA methylation in an African rainforest hunter-gathering population

Aging is associated with widespread changes in genome-wide patterns of DNA methylation. Thousands of CpG sites whose tissue-specific methylation levels are strongly correlated with chronological age have been previously identified. However, the majority of these studies have focused primarily on cosmopolitan populations living in the developed world; it is not known if age-related patterns of DNA methylation at these loci are similar across a broad range of human genetic and ecological diversity. We investigated genome-wide methylation patterns using saliva derived DNA from a traditionally hunting and gathering African populations: the Baka of the western Central African rainforest, together with the ≠Khomani San of the South African Kalahari Desert. We identify hundreds of CpG sites whose methylation levels are significantly associated with age, thousands that are significant in a meta-analysis, and replicate trends previously reported in populations of non-African descent. We confirm that an age associated site in the gene ELOVL2 shows a remarkably congruent relationship with aging in humans, despite extensive genetic and environmental variation across populations. We also demonstrate that genotype state at methylation quantitative trait loci (meQTLs) can affect methylation trends at some known age-associated CpG sites. Our study explores the relationship between CpG methylation and chronological age in populations of African hunter-gatherers, who rely on different diets across diverse ecologies. While many age-related CpG sites replicate across populations, we show that considering common genetic variation at meQTLs further improves our ability to detect previously identified age associations.

Click on a Dataset ID in the table below to learn more, and to find out who to contact about access to these data

Dataset ID Description Technology Samples
EGAD00010001251 Illumina HumanMethylation450 38
Publications Citations
Trends in DNA Methylation with Age Replicate Across Diverse Human Populations.
Genetics 206: 2017 1659-1674