Differences in DNA Methylation and Functional Expression in Lactase Persistent and Non-persistent Individuals

Milena N. Leseva, Richard J. Grand, Hagen Klett, Melanie Boerries, Hauke Busch, Alexandra M. Binder, Karin B. Michels*

*Corresponding author for this work
1 Citation (Scopus)


In humans the expression of lactase changes during post-natal development, leading to phenotypes known as lactase persistence and non-persistence. Polymorphisms within the lactase gene (LCT) enhancer, in particular the -13910C > T, but also others, are linked to these phenotypes. We were interested in identifying dynamic mediators of LCT regulation, beyond the genotype at -13910C > T. To this end, we investigated two levels of lactase regulation in human intestinal samples obtained from New England children and adolescents of mixed European ancestry: differential expression of transcriptional regulators of LCT, and variations in DNA methylation, and their relation to phenotype. Variations in expression of CDX2, POU2F1, GATA4, GATA6, and HNF1α did not correlate with phenotype. However, an epigenome-wide approach using the Illumina Infinium HM450 bead chip identified a differentially methylated position in the LCT promoter where methylation levels are associated with the genotype at -13910C > T, the persistence/non-persistence phenotype and lactase enzymatic activity. DNA methylation levels at this promoter site and CpGs in the LCT enhancer are associated with genotype. Indeed, taken together they have a higher power to predict lactase phenotypes than the genotype alone.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5649
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01.12.2018


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