Kidney-specific methylation patterns correlate with kidney function and are lost upon kidney disease progression

Naor Sagy, Noa Meyrom, Pazit Beckerman, Oren Pleniceanu, Daniel Z. Bar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Chronological and biological age correlate with DNA methylation levels at specific sites in the genome. Linear combinations of multiple methylation sites, termed epigenetic clocks, can inform us the chronological age and predict multiple health-related outcomes. However, why some sites correlating with lifespan, healthspan, or specific medical conditions remain poorly understood. Kidney fibrosis is the common pathway for chronic kidney disease, which affects 10% of European and US populations. Results: Here we identify epigenetic clocks and methylation sites that correlate with kidney function. Moreover, we identify methylation sites that have a unique methylation signature in the kidney. Methylation levels in majority of these sites correlate with kidney state and function. When kidney function deteriorates, all of these sites regress toward the common methylation pattern observed in other tissues. Interestingly, while the majority of sites are less methylated in the kidney and become more methylated with loss of function, a fraction of the sites are highly methylated in the kidney and become less methylated when kidney function declines. These methylation sites are enriched for specific transcription-factor binding sites. In a large subset of sites, changes in methylation patterns are accompanied by changes in gene expression in kidneys of chronic kidney disease patients. Conclusions: These results support the information theory of aging, and the hypothesis that the unique tissue identity, as captured by methylation patterns, is lost as tissue function declines. However, this information loss is not random, but guided toward a baseline that is dependent on the genomic loci. Significance statement: DNA methylation at specific sites accurately reflects chronological and biological age. We identify sites that have a unique methylation pattern in the kidney. Methylation levels in the majority of these sites correlate with kidney state and function. Moreover, when kidney function deteriorates, all of these sites regress toward the common methylation pattern observed in other tissues. Thus, the unique methylation signature of the kidney is degraded, and epigenetic information is lost, when kidney disease progresses. These methylation sites are enriched for specific and methylation-sensitive transcription-factor binding sites, and associated genes show disease-dependent changes in expression. These results support the information theory of aging, and the hypothesis that the unique tissue identity, as captured by methylation patterns, is lost as tissue function declines.

Original languageEnglish
Article number27
JournalClinical Epigenetics
Volume16
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2024

Funding

FundersFunder number
Center for Artificial Intelligence & Data Science in Tel Aviv University
Israel Science Foundation654/20, 632/20

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