Short-Term Exposure to PM 2.5 and Vanadium and Changes in Asthma Gene DNA Methylation and Lung Function Decrements Among Urban Children

Background: Both short and long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollutants have been associated with asthma and reduced lung function. We hypothesized that short-term indoor exposure to fine particulate matter <2.5 μm (PM2.5) and vanadium (V) would be associated with altered buccal cell DNA methylation of targeted asthma genes and decreased lung function among urban children in a nested subcohort of African American and Dominican children.
Methods: Six day integrated levels of air pollutants were measured from children’s homes (age 9–14; n = 163), repeated 6 months later (n = 98). Buccal samples were collected repeatedly during visits. CpG promoter loci of asthma genes (i.e., interleukin 4 (IL4), interferon gamma (IFNγ), inducible nitric oxide synthase (NOS2A), arginase 2 (ARG2)) were pyrosequenced and lung function was assessed.
Results: Exposure to V, but not PM2.5, was associated with lower DNA methylation of IL4 and IFNγ. In exploratory analyses, V levels were associated with lower methylation of the proinflammatory NOS2A-CpG+5099 among asthmatic overweight or obese children but not nonasthmatics. Short-term exposure to PM2.5, but not V, appeared associated with lower lung function (i.e., reduced z-scores for forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1, FEV1/ forced vital capacity [FEV1/FVC] and forced expiratory flow at 25–75% of FVC [FEF25–75]).
Conclusions: Exposure to V was associated with altered DNA methylation of allergic and proinflammatory asthma genes implicated in air pollution related asthma. However, short-term exposure to PM2.5, but not V, appeared associated with decrements in lung function among urban children.

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