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DNA methylation is associated with improvement in lung function on inhaled corticosteroids in pediatric asthmatics

Wang, Alberta L.a,b; Qiu, Weilianga; DeMeo, Dawn L.a,c; Raby, Benjamin A.a,c,d; Weiss, Scott T.a; Tantisira, Kelan G.a,c

Pharmacogenetics and Genomics: April 2019 - Volume 29 - Issue 3 - p 65–68
doi: 10.1097/FPC.0000000000000366

Asthma is the most common chronic disease in children. Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) are the first-line treatment for asthma control, but up to one-third of children have a poor treatment response. The mechanism of ICS resistance is poorly understood, and the role of DNA methylation in ICS treatment response is not known. We examined the association between peripheral blood DNA methylation and ICS treatment response in 152 pediatric persistent asthmatics from the Childhood Asthma Management Program. Response to ICS was measured by the percentage change in forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) 8 weeks after treatment initiation. The top CpG sites with a nominal P value less than 0.001 were correlated with gene expression using Pearson’s and partial correlations. In 152 participants, mean±SD age was 9.8±2.0 years and median change in FEV1 after ICS initiation was 4.6% (interquartile range: 10.4%). A total of 545 CpG sites were differentially methylated (nominal P<0.05), and seven CpG sites had a nominal P value less than 0.001. Relative hypermethylation of cg20434811, cg02822723, cg14066280, cg27254601, and cg23913400 and relative hypomethylation of cg24937126 and cg24711626 were associated with an increase in FEV1 on ICS treatment. One CpG site was associated with gene expression. Relative hypermethylation of cg27254601 was associated with both an increase in FEV1 and BOLA2 expression (ρ=0.25, P=0.02). We identified a novel association between BOLA2 methylation, gene expression, and ICS response as measured by lung function. Pharmacoepigenetics has the potential to detect treatment sensitivity in persistent childhood asthma.

aChanning Division of Network Medicine

bDivision of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy

cDivision of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

dDivision of Pulmonary Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Correspondence to Kelan G. Tantisira, MD, Channing Division of Network Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 181 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA Tel: +1 617 525 0863; fax: +1 617 525 0958; e-mail:

Received October 23, 2018

Accepted December 4, 2018

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