Association of Asthma and Rhinitis with Epigenetics of Coronavirus Related Genes


Introduction: Susceptibility factors for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) include sex and medical conditions such as asthma and rhinitis. DNA methylation (DNAm) is associated with asthma, rhinitis, and several viruses. We examined associations of asthma/rhinitis with DNAm at CpGs located on coronavirus related genes, and if these associations were sex-specific. Methods: In total, n = 242 subjects aged 26 years from the Isle of Wight Birth Cohort were included in the study. Linear regressions were used to examine sex specific and non-specific associations of DNAm at CpGs on coronavirus related genes with asthma/rhinitis status. Associations of DNAm with gene expression in blood were assessed for functional relevance of identified CpGs. Results: Statistically significant interaction effects of asthma or rhinitis with sex were identified at 40 CpGs for asthma and 27 CpGs for rhinitis. At 21 CpGs, DNAm was associated with asthma, and at 45 CpGs with rhinitis, regardless of sex. Assessment of functional relevance of the identified CpGs indicated a potential of epigenetic regulatory functionality on gene activity at 14 CpGs for asthma and 17 CpGs for rhinitis, and of those 6 CpGs for asthma and 7 CpGs for rhinitis were likely to be sex-specific. Conclusion: Subjects with asthma/rhinitis may have altered susceptibility to COVID-19 due to changes in their DNAm associated with these conditions. Sex specificity on association of asthma/rhinitis with DNAm at certain CpGs, and on the association of DNAm at asthma/rhinitis-linked CpGs with gene expression have the potential to explain the reported sex-specificity in COVID-19 morbidity and mortality.

Publication Title

Epigenetics Insights