EWAS of post-COVID-19 patients shows methylation differences in the immune-response associated gene, IFI44L, three months after COVID-19 infection
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionScientific Reports. 2022, 12, 11478. 10.1038/s41598-022-15467-1
Although substantial progress has been made in managing COVID-19, it is still difficult to predict a patient’s prognosis. We explored the epigenetic signatures of COVID-19 in peripheral blood using data from an ongoing prospective observational study of COVID-19 called the Norwegian Corona Cohort Study. A series of EWASs were performed to compare the DNA methylation profiles between COVID-19 cases and controls three months post-infection. We also investigated differences associated with severity and long-COVID. Three CpGs—cg22399236, cg03607951, and cg09829636—were significantly hypomethylated (FDR < 0.05) in COVID-19 positive individuals. cg03607951 is located in IFI44L which is involved in innate response to viral infection and several systemic autoimmune diseases. cg09829636 is located in ANKRD9, a gene implicated in a wide variety of cellular processes, including the degradation of IMPDH2. The link between ANKRD9 and IMPDH2 is striking given that IMPDHs are considered therapeutic targets for COVID-19. Furthermore, gene ontology analyses revealed pathways involved in response to viruses. The lack of significant differences associated with severity and long-COVID may be real or reflect limitations in sample size. Our findings support the involvement of interferon responsive genes in the pathophysiology of COVID-19 and indicate a possible link to systemic autoimmune diseases.