DNA methylation-based clocks provide the most accurate age estimates with practical implications for clinical and forensic genetics. However, the effects of external factors that may influence the estimates are poorly studied. Here, we evaluated the effect of alcohol consumption on epigenetic age prediction in a cohort of extreme alcohol abusers. Blood samples from deceased alcohol abusers and age- and sex-matched controls were analyzed using the VISAGE enhanced tool for age prediction from somatic tissues that enables examination of 44 CpGs within eight age markers. Significantly altered DNA methylation was recorded for alcohol abusers in MIR29B2CHG. This resulted in a mean predicted age of 1.4 years higher compared to the controls and this trend increased in older individuals. The association of alcohol abuse with epigenetic age acceleration, as determined by the prediction analysis performed based on MIR29B2CHG, was small but significant (β = 0.190; P-value = 0.007). However, the observed alteration in DNA methylation of MIR29B2CHG had a non-significant effect on age estimation with the VISAGE age prediction model. The mean absolute error in the alcohol-abusing cohort was 3.1 years, compared to 3.3 years in the control group. At the same time, upregulation of MIR29B2CHG expression may have a biological function, which merits further studies.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The study received support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement No. 740580 within the framework of the Visible Attributes through Genomics (VISAGE) Project and Consortium.
© 2021, The Author(s).