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The original version of this article is published in PLoS One, Volume 8, Issue 1, 17 January 2013, Article number e53938. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053938.


OBJECTIVE: There is emerging evidence from animal studies suggesting a key role for methylation in the pathogenesis of essential hypertension. However, to date, very few studies have investigated the role of methylation in the development of human hypertension, and none has taken a genome-wide approach. Based on the recent studies that highlight the involvement of inflammation in the development of hypertension, we hypothesize that changes in DNA methylation of leukocytes are involved in the pathogenesis of hypertension.

METHOD & RESULTS: We conducted a genome-wide methylation analysis on 8 hypertensive cases and 8 normotensive age-matched controls aged 14-23 years and performed validation of the most significant CpG sites in 2 genes in an independent sample of 36 hypertensive cases and 60 normotensive controls aged 14-30 years. Validation of the CpG sites in the SULF1 gene was further conducted in a second replication sample of 36 hypertensive cases and 34 controls aged 15.8-40 years. A CpG site in the SULF1 gene showed higher methylation levels in cases than in healthy controls in the genome-wide step (p = 6.2×10(-5)), which was confirmed in the validation step (p = 0.011) for subjects ≤30 years old but was not significant for subjects of all ages combined (p = 0.095).

CONCLUSION: The identification of a difference in a blood leukocyte DNA methylation site between hypertensive cases and normotensive controls suggests that changes in DNA methylation may play an important role in the pathogenesis of hypertension. The age dependency of the effect further suggests complexity of epigenetic regulation in this age-related disease.

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