Werner Roemisch-Margl, Eman K Al-Dous, Christian Gieger, Gordan Lauc, Maija Pezer, Melanie Waldenberger, Pei-Chien Tsai, Yasmin A Mohamoud, Sara Kader, Jordana Bell, Nele Friedrich, Mario Falchi, Anna Halama, Alessia Visconti, Jerzy Adamski, Rudolf Engelke, Nisha Stephan, Johannes Graumann, Tim Spector, Gabi Kastenmüller, Dennis O Mook-Kanamori, Annette Peters, Annika Wahl, Joel A Malek, Karsten Suhre, Hina Sarwath, Shaza B Zaghlool
Epigenetic regulation of cellular function provides a mechanism for rapid organismal adaptation to changes in health, lifestyle, and environment. Associations of cytosine-guanine di-nucleotide (CpG) methylation with clinical endpoints that overlap with metabolic phenotypes suggest a regulatory role for these CpG sites in the body's response to disease or environmental stress. We previously identified 20 CpG sites in an epigenome-wide association study (EWAS) with metabolomics that were also associated in recent EWASs with diabetes-, obesity-, and smoking-related endpoints. To elucidate the molecular pathways that connect these potentially regulatory CpG sites to the associated disease or lifestyle factors, we conducted a multi-omics association study including 2,474 mass-spectrometry based metabolites in plasma, urine, and saliva, 225 NMR based lipid and metabolite measures in blood, 1,124 blood-circulating proteins using aptamer technology, 113 plasma protein N-glycans and 60 IgG-glyans, using 359 samples from the multi-ethnic Qatar Metabolomics Study on Diabetes (QMDiab). We report 138 multi-omics associations at these CpG sites, including diabetes biomarkers at the diabetes-associated TXNIP locus, and smoking-specific metabolites and proteins at multiple smoking-associated loci, including AHRR. Mendelian randomization suggests a causal effect of metabolite levels on methylation of obesity associated CpG sites, i.e. of glycerophospholipid PC(O-36:5), glycine, and a very low density lipoprotein (VLDL-A) on the methylation of the obesity-associated CpG loci DHCR24, MYO5C, and CPT1A, respectively. Taken together, our study suggests that multi-omics-associated CpG methylation can provide functional read-outs for the underlying regulatory response mechanisms to disease or environmental insults.