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Epigenetics of Personality Traits: An Illustrative Study of Identical Twins Discordant for Risk-Taking Behavior

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 February 2012

Zachary Kaminsky
Affiliation:
The Krembil Family Epigenetics Laboratory, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Arturas Petronis
Affiliation:
The Krembil Family Epigenetics Laboratory, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Sun-Chong Wang
Affiliation:
The Krembil Family Epigenetics Laboratory, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Institute of Systems Biology and Bioinformatics, National 6 Central University, Chungli, Taiwan.
Brian Levine
Affiliation:
Rotman Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Omar Ghaffar
Affiliation:
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Darlene Floden
Affiliation:
Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, United States of America.
Anthony Feinstein*
Affiliation:
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. antfeinstein@aol.com
*
*Address for correspondence: Anthony Feinstein MPhil, PhD, FRCPC, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, 2075 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4N 3M5.

Abstract

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DNA methylation differences between identical twins could account for phenotypic twin discordance of behavioral traits and diseases. High throughput epigenomic microarray profiling can be a strategy of choice for identification of epigenetic differences in phenotypically different monozygotic (MZ) twins. Epigenomic profiling of a pair of MZ twins with quantified measures of psychometric discordance identified several DNA methylation differences, some of which may have developmental and behavioral implications and are consistent with the contrasting psychometric profiles of the twins. In particular, differential methylation of CpG islands proximal to the homeobox DLX1 gene could modulate stress responses and risk taking behavior, and deserve further attention as a potential marker of aversion to danger. The epigenetic difference detected at DLX1 of ∼1.2 fold change was used to evaluate experimental design issues such as the required numbers of technical replicates. It also enabled us to estimate the power this technique would have to detect a functionally relevant epigenetic difference given a range of 1 to 50 twin pairs. We found that use of epigenomic microarray profiling in a relatively small number (15–25) of phenotypically discordant twin pairs has sufficient power to detect 1.2 fold epigenetic changes.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008
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