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BackgroundGenetic and environmental factors play a role in the development of COPD. The epigenome, and more specifically DNA methylation, is recognized as important link between these factors. We postulate that DNA methylation is one of the routes by which cigarette smoke influences the development of COPD. In this study, we aim to identify CpG-sites that are associated with cigarette smoke exposure and lung function levels in whole blood and validate these CpG-sites in lung tissue.MethodsThe association between pack years and DNA methylation was studied genome-wide in 658 current smokers with >5 pack years using robust linear regression analysis. Using mediation analysis, we subsequently selected the CpG-sites that were also associated with lung function levels. Significant CpG-sites were validated in lung tissue with pyrosequencing and expression quantitative trait methylation (eQTM) analysis was performed to investigate the association between DNA methylation and gene expression.Results15 CpG-sites were significantly associated with pack years and 10 of these were additionally associated with lung function levels. We validated 5 CpG-sites in lung tissue and found several associations between DNA methylation and gene expression.ConclusionThis study is the first to validate a panel of CpG-sites that are associated with cigarette smoking and lung function levels in whole blood in the tissue of interest: lung tissue.

Original publication




Journal article


Respiratory research

Publication Date





University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Department of Epidemiology, Hanzeplein 1, Groningen, 9713, GZ, The Netherlands.


Lung, Humans, DNA Methylation, CpG Islands, Adult, Aged, Middle Aged, Female, Male, Genome-Wide Association Study, Young Adult, Cigarette Smoking, Smokers