Differential DNA methylation associated with multiple sclerosis and disease modifying treatments in an underrepresented minority population

Jeremy M. Bingen, Lindsay V. Clark, Mark R. Band, Ilyas Munzir, Michael D. Carrithers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Black and Hispanic American patients frequently develop earlier onset of multiple sclerosis (MS) and a more severe disease course that can be resistant to disease modifying treatments. The objectives were to identify differential methylation of genomic DNA (gDNA) associated with disease susceptibility and treatment responses in a cohort of MS patients from underrepresented minority populations. Patients with MS and controls with non-inflammatory neurologic conditions were consented and enrolled under an IRB-approved protocol. Approximately 64% of donors identified as Black or African American and 30% as White, Hispanic-Latino. Infinium MethylationEPIC bead arrays were utilized to measure epigenome-wide gDNA methylation of whole blood. Data were analyzed in the presence and absence of adjustments for unknown covariates in the dataset, some of which corresponded to disease modifying treatments. Global patterns of differential methylation associated with MS were strongest for those probes that showed relative demethylation of loci with lower M values. Pathway analysis revealed unexpected associations with shigellosis and amoebiasis. Enrichment analysis revealed an over-representation of probes in enhancer regions and an under-representation in promoters. In the presence of adjustments for covariates that included disease modifying treatments, analysis revealed 10 differentially methylated regions (DMR’s) with an FDR <1E-77. Five of these genes (ARID5B, BAZ2B, RABGAP1, SFRP2, WBP1L) are associated with cancer risk and cellular differentiation and have not been previously identified in MS studies. Hierarchical cluster and multi-dimensional scaling analysis of differential DNA methylation at 147 loci within those DMR’s was sufficient to differentiate MS donors from controls. In the absence of corrections for disease modifying treatments, differential methylation in patients treated with dimethyl fumarate was associated with immune regulatory pathways that regulate cytokine and chemokine signaling, axon guidance, and adherens junctions. These results demonstrate possible associations of gastrointestinal pathogens and regulation of cellular differentiation with MS susceptibility in our patient cohort. This work further suggests that analyses can be performed in the presence and absence of corrections for immune therapies. Because of their high representation in our patient cohort, these results may be of specific relevance in the regulation of disease susceptibility and treatment responses in Black and Hispanic Americans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1058817
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
StatePublished - Jan 4 2023


  • african American
  • biomarker
  • black
  • dimethyl fumarate
  • epigenetics
  • hispanic
  • latino

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Medicine


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