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Integrative analysis of glucometabolic traits, adipose tissue DNA methylation and gene expression identifies epigenetic regulatory mechanisms of insulin resistance and obesity in African Americans

Neeraj, K. Sharma and Mary, E. Comeau and Dennis, Montoya and Matteo, Pellegrini and Timothy, D. Howard and Carl, D. Langefeld and Swapan, K. Das

Decline in insulin sensitivity due to dysfunction of adipose tissue (AT) is one of the earliest pathogenic events in Type 2 Diabetes. We hypothesize that differential DNA methylation (DNAm) controls insulin sensitivity and obesity by modulating transcript expression in AT. Integrating AT DNAm profiles with transcript profile data measured in a cohort of 230 African Americans from AAGMEx cohort, we performed cis-expression quantitative trait methylation (cis-eQTM) analysis to identify epigenetic regulatory loci for glucometabolic trait-associated transcripts. We identified significantly associated CpG-regions for 82 transcripts (FDR-P<0.05). The strongest eQTM locus was observed for the proopiomelanocortin (POMC; ρ= -0.632, P= 4.70X10-27) gene. Epigenome-wide association studies (EWAS) further identified 155, 46, and 168 CpG regions associated (FDR-P <0.05) with Matsuda index, SI and BMI, respectively. Intersection of EWAS, transcript level to trait association, and eQTM results, followed by causal inference test identified significant eQTM loci for 23 genes that were also associated with Matsuda index, SI and/or BMI in EWAS. These associated genes include FERMT3, ITGAM, ITGAX, and POMC. In summary, applying an integrative multi-omics approach, our study provides evidence for DNAm-mediated regulation of gene expression at both previously identified and novel loci for many key AT transcripts influencing insulin resistance and obesity.

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