Birth Defects Res. 2022 Sep 17. doi: 10.1002/bdr2.2090. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Environmental factors may influence the development of tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), and DNA methylation patterns may reveal specific chemical signatures of perturbations during cardiac development. We investigated whether blood and buccal cells could be viable surrogates for myocardium.
METHODS: We measured epigenome-wide DNA methylation at 866,895 5′-cytosine-phosphate-guanine-3′ (CpG) sites in blood (n=3), buccal cells (n=3), and right ventricular myocardium (n=4) collected from infants with TOF and compared the percent of differentially methylated CpG sites across tissue types. Gene-specific DNA methylation profiles were also analyzed for ten representative genes associated with heart development. Welch’s ANOVAs compared general methylation between tissue types.
RESULTS: Comparison of DNA methylation profiles across blood, buccal, and myocardium suggested myocardium and buccal samples were most similar, differing in DNA methylation at only 1.3% (11,386) of CpG sites whereas myocardium and blood were most dissimilar, having 146,857 statistically dissimilar methylated CpG sites (~17% dissimilarity; adjusted p < 0.01 for each site). Buccal swabs were significantly more variable (p < .001) than either blood or myocardial samples. In gene-specific analyses, SCO2, GATA4, NOTCH4, WNT7A, and DKK2 showed conserved DNA methylation profiles across tissue types, while HAND1, JAG1, NKX2-5, TBX5 and TBX20 showed more distinctive tissue-specific patterns of DNA methylation.
CONCLUSIONS: Compared with blood, buccal tissue more closely mirrors the myocardial methylome, with >10-fold similarity. Nevertheless, both buccal and blood tissue capture highly conserved DNA methylation patterns at specific genetic loci related to cardiac development. Buccal cheek swabs may be a useful surrogate tissue type for future investigations of TOF-specific epigenetic profiles.