Methylation of IL-2 promoter at birth alters the risk of asthma exacerbations during childhood

J. A. Curtin, A. Simpson, D. Belgrave, A. Semic-Jusufagic, A. Custovic, F. D. Martinez

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30 Scopus citations


Background: Epigenetic modifications may have a role in asthma susceptibility. Objective: To investigate whether epigenetic modification at birth of a CpG site necessary for the regulation of IL-2 transcription (IL-2 Site1) is associated with the development of asthma during childhood. Methods: Methylation of IL-2 Site1 was assessed in cord blood from 303 children (225 with atopic mothers); as controls, we measured methylation of a site not important in the transcription of IL-2 (IL-2 Site7) and methylation of the LINE-1 repetitive element. Children were followed to the age of 8 years. Information on severe asthma exacerbations and hospital admissions was collected from child's primary care medical record. To account for potential confounding by bronchiolitis, we used exacerbations/hospitalizations after age 1 year as primary outcomes. Results: There were 49 severe exacerbations amongst 33 children, and 22 hospital admissions amongst 11 children. The risk of asthma exacerbation increased 1.07-fold (95% CI 1.01-1.14, P = 0.03) and the risk of hospital admission increased 1.12-fold (95% CI 1.04-1.20, P = 0.002) for each one per cent increase in IL-2 Site1 methylation. Children who were admitted to hospital at any time-point had significantly higher IL-2 Site1 methylation than children not admitted to hospital (P = 0.007). There was a significant interaction between age at exacerbation (P = 0.03) or hospital admission (P = 0.02) and methylation, with the effect of methylation increasing with increasing age. Methylation of the control IL-2 Site7 or LINE-1 was not a significant predictor of asthma exacerbations/hospital admission, and we found no association between IL-2 Site1 methylation and hospital admissions for other reasons (0.99 [0.92-1.06]). Cord blood mononuclear cell phytohemagglutinin-stimulated lymphoproliferative responses decreased significantly with increasing IL-2 Site1 methylation (P < 0.001). Conclusions: Increasing methylation in cord blood of a functional CpG site in the IL-2 promoter is associated with increased likelihood of severe asthma exacerbations and hospital admissions for asthma/wheeze between ages of 2 and 8 years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-311
Number of pages8
JournalClinical and Experimental Allergy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Asthma
  • Childhood
  • Epigenetics
  • Exacerbation
  • Interleukin 2
  • Methylation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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