Associations of sex hormone-binding globulin and testosterone with genome-wide DNA methylation

Ryan Arathimos*, Gemma Sharp, Raquel Granell, Kate Tilling, Caroline Relton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) and the androgen testosterone have been associated with risk of diseases throughout the lifecourse. Although both SHBG and testosterone have been shown to be highly heritable, only a fraction of that heritability has been explained by genetic studies. Epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation may explain some of the missing heritability and could potentially inform biological knowledge of endocrine disease mechanisms involved in development of later life disease. Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), we explored cross-sectional associations of SHBG, total testosterone and bioavailable testosterone in childhood (males only) and adolescence (both males and females) with genome-wide DNA methylation. We also report associations of a SHBG polymorphism (rs12150660) with DNA methylation, which leads to differential levels of SHBG in carriers, as a genetic proxy of circulating SHBG levels.
Results: We identified several novel sites and genomic regions where levels of SHBG, total testosterone, and bioavailable testosterone were associated with DNA methylation, including one region associated with total testosterone in males (annotated to the KLHL31 gene) in both childhood and adolescence and a second region associated with bioavailable testosterone (annotated to the CMYA5 gene) at both time-points. We also identified one region where both SHBG and bioavailable testosterone in males in childhood (annotated to the ZNF718 gene) was associated with DNA methylation.
Conclusion: Our findings have important implications in the understanding of the biological processes of SHBG and testosterone, with the potential for future work to determine the molecular mechanisms that could underpin these associations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number113
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Genetics
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2018


  • Sex hormones
  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetics
  • Testosterone
  • SHBG


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