The PedBE clock accurately estimates DNA methylation age in pediatric buccal cells
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Number of pages
SourceProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 117, 38, (2020), pp. 23329-23335
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI ON
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA
SubjectAll institutes and research themes of the Radboud University Medical Center; Radboudumc 13: Stress-related disorders DCMN: Donders Center for Medical Neuroscience; Social Development
DNA methylation is the most studied modification in human population epigenetics. Its information content can be explored in 2 principal ways - epigenome-wide association studies and epigenetic age. The latter likely reflects cellular/biological age and works with impressive accuracy across most tissues. In adults, it associates with various environments and health. However, current epigenetic clocks are not very accurate in the pediatric age range perhaps because DNA methylation changes much faster in children. Addressing this crucial gap, we created a precise tool to estimate DNA methylation age specific to pediatric buccal epithelial cells. This tool has the potential to become the standard reference for epigenetic studies broadly relevant to child development across the spectrum from health to disease.The development of biological markers of aging has primarily focused on adult samples. Epigenetic clocks are a promising tool for measuring biological age that show impressive accuracy across most tissues and age ranges. In adults, deviations from the DNA methylation (DNAm) age prediction are correlated with several age-related phenotypes, such as mortality and frailty. In children, however, fewer such associations have been made, possibly because DNAm changes are more dynamic in pediatric populations as compared to adults. To address this gap, we aimed to develop a highly accurate, noninvasive, biological measure of age specific to pediatric samples using buccal epithelial cell DNAm. We gathered 1,721 genome-wide DNAm profiles from 11 different cohorts of typically developing individuals aged 0 to 20 y old. Elastic net penalized regression was used to select 94 CpG sites from a training dataset (n = 1,032), with performance assessed in a separate test dataset (n = 689). DNAm at these 94 CpG sites was highly predictive of age in the test cohort (median absolute error = 0.35 y). The Pediatric-Buccal-Epigenetic (PedBE) clock was characterized in additional cohorts, showcasing the accuracy in longitudinal data, the performance in nonbuccal tissues and adult age ranges, and the association with obstetric outcomes. The PedBE tool for measuring biological age in children might help in understanding the environmental and contextual factors that shape the DNA methylome during child development, and how it, in turn, might relate to child health and disease.
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