Childhood obesity remains an epidemic in the U.S. and worldwide. However, little is understood regarding the epigenetic basis of obesity in adolescents. To investigate the cross-sectional association between DNA methylation level in obesity-related genes and body mass index (BMI) percentile, data from 263 adolescents in the population-based Penn State Child Cohort follow-up exam was analysed. Using DNA extracted from peripheral leukocytes, epigenome-wide single nucleotide resolution of DNA methylation in cytosine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) sites and surrounding regions was obtained. We used multivariable-adjusted linear regression models to assess the association between site-specific methylation level and age- and sex-specific BMI percentile. Hypergeometric and permutation tests were used to determine if obesity-related genes were significantly enriched among all intragenic sites that achieved a p < 0.05 throughout the epigenome. Among the 5,669 sites related to BMI percentile with p < 0.05, 28 were identified within obesity-related genes. Obesity-related genes were significantly enriched among 103,466 intragenic sites (P hypergeometric = 0.006; P permutation = 0.006). Moreover, increased methylation on one site within SIM1 was significantly related to higher BMI percentile (P = 4.2E-05). If externally validated, our data would suggest that DNA methylation in obesity-related genes may relate to obesity risk in adolescents.
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