Genome-wide DNA methylation meta-analysis in the brains of suicide completers

Stefania Policicchio, Sam Washer, Joana Viana, Artemis Iatrou, Joe Burrage, Eilis Hannon, Gustavo Turecki, Zachary Kaminsky, Jonathan Mill, Emma L. Dempster, Therese M. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Suicide is the second leading cause of death globally among young people representing a significant global health burden. Although the molecular correlates of suicide remains poorly understood, it has been hypothesised that epigenomic processes may play a role. The objective of this study was to identify suicide-associated DNA methylation changes in the human brain by utilising previously published and unpublished methylomic datasets. We analysed prefrontal cortex (PFC, n = 211) and cerebellum (CER, n = 114) DNA methylation profiles from suicide completers and non-psychiatric, sudden-death controls, meta-analysing data from independent cohorts for each brain region separately. We report evidence for altered DNA methylation at several genetic loci in suicide cases compared to controls in both brain regions with suicide-associated differentially methylated positions enriched among functional pathways relevant to psychiatric phenotypes and suicidality, including nervous system development (PFC) and regulation of long-term synaptic depression (CER). In addition, we examined the functional consequences of variable DNA methylation within a PFC suicide-associated differentially methylated region (PSORS1C3 DMR) using a dual luciferase assay and examined expression of nearby genes. DNA methylation within this region was associated with decreased expression of firefly luciferase but was not associated with expression of nearby genes, PSORS1C3 and POU5F1. Our data suggest that suicide is associated with DNA methylation, offering novel insights into the molecular pathology associated with suicidality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number69
JournalTranslational psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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