Objectives: The vitamin D receptor (VDR) is a member of the nuclear receptor family of transcription factors. We examined whether degree of VDR gene methylation acts as a molecular adaptation to light exposure. We explored this in the context of photoperiod at conception, recent UV irradiance at 305 nm, and gene-latitude effects. METHODS: Eighty subjects were examined for VDR gene-CpG island methylation density. VDR gene variants were also examined by PCR-RFLP. RESULTS: Photoperiod at conception was significantly positively related to VDR methylation density, explaining 17% of the variance in methylation (r2= 0.17; P =.001). Within this model, photoperiod at conception and plasma 25(OH)D independently predicted methylation density at the VDR-CpG island. Recent UV exposure at 305 nm led to a fivefold increase in mean methylation density (P =.02). Again, UV exposure and plasma 25(OH)D independently predicted methylation density at the VDR-CpG island. In the presence of the BsmI mutant allele, methylation density was increased (P =.01), and in the presence of the TaqI or FokI mutant allele, methylation density was decreased (P =.007 and.04 respectively). Multivariate modelling suggests plasma 25(OH)D, photoperiod at conception, recent solar irradiance, and VDR genotype combine as independent predictors of methylation at the VDR-CpG island, explaining 34% of the variance in methylation (R2= 0.34, P <.0001). CONCLUSIONS: Duration of early-life light exposure and strength of recent irradiance, along with latitudinal genetic factors, influence degree of VDR gene methylation consistent with this epigenetic phenomenon being a molecular adaptation to variation in ambient light exposure. Findings contribute to our understanding of human biology.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics