AAN IN11-2.005 Identification of Epstein-Barr Virus Associated Epigenetic Changes and Association with Multiple Sclerosis

Ramagopalan, et al. OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether EBV associated changes to the epigenome are involved in the pathogenesis of MS. BACKGROUND: The epigenome are the chemical changes that happen to the DNA that do not affect the actual coding sequence of the DNA, but rather how the cell reads and processes the information coded in the sequence. As you may know already symptomatic EBV infection as manifested by infectious mononucleosis (IM) has been firmly established as a risk factor for MS, however the mechanism behind this association is unclear. There is now convincing evidence for an epigenetic component to MS, with maternal parent-of-origin, transgenerational (grandparental) and early life (month of birth) effects, as well as the increasing sex ratio of the disease. RESULTS: In this study we found that 4475 locations in the genome were significantly different (methylated) between the pre- and post-EBV infection samples. Importantly, these areas were enriched for genes associated with MS. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides convincing evidence to support the hypothesis that environmental factors in MS act, at least in part, through influences on the epigenome.

“If this data can be confirmed by other groups it suggests that epigenetic changes to the genome play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of MS.”

COI: Ram who did this work is a post-doctoral scientist in our laboratory.

Acknowledgement: This research was generously funded by the MRC.

For those of you who are having difficulties with the concept of epigenetics may find the following link and picture helpful. I will also ask Ram to produce and post a Youtube tutorial on this subject for you to view.

Epigenetics in Wikipedia

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