Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is highly prevalent worldwide. In the United States, estimates show that more than 30% of the adult population has MetS. MetS consists of multiple phenotypes, including obesity, dyslipidemia, and impaired glucose tolerance. Therefore, identifying the molecular mechanisms to explain this complex disease is critical for diagnosing and treating MetS. We previously showed 70 increased genes and 20 decreased genes in whole blood in MetS participants. The present study aimed to identify blood-based DNA methylation biomarkers in non-MetS versus MetS participants. The present study analyzed whole blood DNA samples from 184 adult participants of Latino descent from the Arizona Insulin Resistance (AIR) registry. We used the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP: ATP III) criteria to identify non-MetS (n = 110) and MetS (n = 74) participants. We performed whole blood methylation analysis on select genes: ATP Synthase, H+ Transporting mitochondrial F1 Complex, Epsilon Subunit (ATP5E), Cytochrome C Oxidase Subunit VIc (COX6C), and Ribosomal Protein L9 (RPL9). The pyrosequencing analysis was a targeted approach focusing on the promoter region of each gene that specifically captured CpG methylation sites. In MetS participants, we showed decreased methylation in two CpG sites in COX6C and three CpG sites in RPL9, all p < 0.05 using the Mann-Whitney U test. There were no ATP5E CpG sites differently methylated in the MetS participants. Furthermore, while adjusting for age, gender, and smoking status, logistic regression analysis reaffirmed the associations between MetS and mean methylation within COX6C and RPL9 (both p < 0.05). In addition, Spearman’s correlation revealed a significant inverse relationship between the previously published gene expression data and methylation data for RPL9 (p < 0.05). In summary, these results highlight potential blood DNA methylation biomarkers for the MetS phenotype. However, future validation studies are warranted to strengthen our findings.
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