Effects of particulate matter exposure on blood 5-hydroxymethylation: Results from the Beijing truck driver air pollution study

Marco Sanchez-Guerra*, Yinan Zheng, Citlalli Osorio-Yanez, Jia Zhong, Yana Chervona, Sheng Wang, Dou Chang, John P. McCracken, Anaite Díaz, Pier Alberto Bertazzi, Petros Koutrakis, Choong Min Kang, Xiao Zhang, Wei Zhang, Hyang Min Byun, Joel Schwartz, Lifang Hou, Andrea A. Baccarelli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Previous studies have reported epigenetic changes induced by environmental exposures. However, previous investigations did not distinguish 5-methylcytosine (5mC) from a similar oxidative form with opposite functions, 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC). Here, we measured blood DNA global 5mC and 5hmC by ELISA and used adjusted mixed-effects regression models to evaluate the effects of ambient PM10 and personal PM2.5 and its elemental components—black carbon (BC), aluminum (Al), calcium (Ca), potassium (K), iron (Fe), sulfur (S), silicon (Si), titanium (Ti), and zinc (Zn)—on blood global 5mC and 5hmC levels. The study was conducted in 60 truck drivers and 60 office workers in Beijing, China from The Beijing Truck Driver Air Pollution Study at 2 exams separated by one to 2 weeks. Blood 5hmC level (0.08%) was ∼83-fold lower than 5mC (6.61%). An inter-quartile range (IQR) increase in same-day PM10 was associated with increases in 5hmC of 26.1% in office workers (P = 0.004), 20.2% in truck drivers (P = 0.014), and 21.9% in all participants combined (P < 0.001). PM10 effects on 5hmC were increasingly stronger when averaged over 4, 7, and 14 d preceding assessment (up to 132.6% for the 14-d average in all participants, P < 0.001). PM10 effects were also significant after controlling for multiple testing (family-wise error rate; FWER < 0.05). 5hmC was not correlated with personal measures of PM2.5 and elemental components (FWER > 0.05). 5mC showed no correlations with PM10, PM2.5, and elemental components measures (FWER > 0.05). Our study suggests that exposure to ambient PM10 affects 5hmC over time, but not 5mC. This finding demonstrates the need to differentiate 5hmC and 5mC in environmental studies of DNA methylation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)633-642
Number of pages10
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • 5-hydroxymethylcytosine
  • 5-methylcytosine
  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetics
  • Particulate Matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


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