Cadmium, smoking, and human blood DNA methylation profiles in adults from the strong heart study

Arce Domingo-Relloso, Angela L. Riffo-Campos, Karin Haack, Pilar Rentero-Garrido, Christine Ladd-Acosta, Daniele M. Fallin, Wan Yee Tang, Miguel Herreros-Martinez, Juan R. Gonzalez, Anne K. Bozack, Shelley A. Cole, Ana Navas-Acien, Maria Tellez-Plaza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The epigenetic effects of individual environmental toxicants in tobacco remain largely unexplored. Cadmium (Cd) has been associated with smoking-related health effects, and its concentration in tobacco smoke is higher in comparison with other metals.OBJECTIVES: We studied the association of Cd and smoking exposures with human blood DNA methylation (DNAm) profiles. We also evaluated the implication of findings to relevant methylation pathways and the potential contribution of Cd exposure from smoking to explain the association between smoking and site-specific DNAm.METHODS: We conducted an epigenome-wide association study of urine Cd and self-reported smoking (current and former vs. never, and cumulative smoking dose) with blood DNAm in 790,026 CpGs (methylation sites) measured with the Illumina Infinium Human MethylationEPIC (Illumina Inc.) platform in 2,325 adults 45–74 years of age who participated in the Strong Heart Study in 1989–1991. In a mediation analysis, we estimated the amount of change in DNAm associated with smoking that can be independently attributed to increases in urine Cd concentrations from smoking. We also conducted enrichment analyses and in silico protein–protein interaction networks to explore the biological relevance of the findings.RESULTS: At a false discovery rate (FDR)-corrected level of 0.05, we found 6 differentially methylated positions (DMPs) for Cd; 288 and 17, respec-tively, for current and former smoking status; and 77 for cigarette pack-years. Enrichment analyses of these DMPs displayed enrichment of 58 and 6 Gene Ontology and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes gene sets, respectively, including biological pathways for cancer and cardiovascular disease. In in silico protein-to-protein networks, we observed key proteins in DNAm pathways directly and indirectly connected to Cd-and smoking-DMPs. Among DMPs that were significant for both Cd and current smoking (annotated to PRSS23, AHRR, F2RL3, RARA, and 2q37.1), we found statistically significant contributions of Cd to smoking-related DNAm.CONCLUSIONS: Beyond replicating well-known smoking epigenetic signatures, we found novel DMPs related to smoking. Moreover, increases in smoking-related Cd exposure were associated with differential DNAm. Our integrative analysis supports a biological link for Cd and smoking-associated health effects, including the possibility that Cd is partly responsible for smoking toxicity through epigenetic changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number067005
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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