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BackgroundEpigenetic alterations may provide valuable insights into gene-environment interactions play in the pathogenesis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).MethodsGenome-wide methylation was measured from peripheral blood using the Illumina 450k platform in a case-control study in an inception cohort (295 controls, 154 CD, 161 UC, 28 IBD-U) with covariates of age, sex, and cell counts, deconvoluted by the Houseman method. Genotyping was performed using Illumina HumanOmniExpressExome-8 BeadChips and gene expression using Ion AmpliSeq Human Gene Expression Core Panel. Treatment escalation was characterised by the need for biological agents or surgery after initial disease remission.ResultsA total of 137 differentially methylated positions (DMP) were identified in IBD, including VMP1/MIR21 (p=9.11×10 -15) and RPS6KA2 (6.43×10 -13); with consistency seen across Scandinavia and UK. Dysregulated loci demonstrate strong genetic influence, notably VMP1 (p=1.53×10 -15). Age acceleration is seen in IBD (coefficient 0.94, p<2.2x10 -16). Several immuno-active genes demonstrated highly significant correlations between methylation and gene expression in IBD, in particular OSM: IBD r -0.32, p 3.64×10 -7 vs. non-IBD r -0.14, p=0.77). Multi-omic integration of methylome, genome and transcriptome also implicate specific pathways that associate with immune activation, response and regulation at disease inception. At follow up, a signature of 3 DMPs (TAP1, TESPA1, RPTOR) associated with treatment escalation to biological agents or surgery (hazard ratio of 5.19 (CI:2.14-12.56, logrank p=9.70×10 -4).ConclusionThese data demonstrate consistent epigenetic alterations at diagnosis in European patients with IBD, providing insights into the pathogenetic importance and translational potential of epigenetic mapping in complex disease.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Crohn's & colitis

Publication Date



Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.


IBD-Character Consortium