Brain Imaging-Guided Analysis Reveals DNA Methylation Profiles Correlated with Insular Surface Area and Alcohol Use Disorder

Yihong Zhao, Yongchao Ge, Zhi Liang Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a wide-spread, heritable brain disease, but few studies have linked genetic variants or epigenetic factors to brain structures related to AUD in humans, due to many factors including the high-dimensional nature of imaging and genomic data. Methods: To provide potential insights into the links among epigenetic regulation, brain structure, and AUD, we have performed an integrative analysis of brain structural imaging and blood DNA methylome data from 52 AUD and 58 healthy control (HC) subjects collected in the Nathan Kline Institute-Rockland Sample. Results: We first found that AUD subjects had significantly larger insular surface area than HC in both left and right hemispheres. We then found that 7,827 DNA methylation probes on the HumanMethylation450K BeadChip had significant correlations with the right insular surface area (false discovery rate [FDR] < 0.05). Furthermore, we showed that 44 of the insular surface area-correlated methylation probes were also strongly correlated with AUD status (FDR < 0.05). These AUD-correlated probes are annotated to 36 protein-coding genes, with 16 genes (44%) having been reported by others to be related to AUD or alcohol response, including TAS2R16 and PER2. The remaining 20 genes, in particular ARHGAP22, might represent novel genes involved in AUD or responsive to alcohol. Conclusions: We have identified 36 insular surface area- and AUD-correlated protein-coding genes that are either known to be AUD- or alcohol-related or not yet reported by prior studies. Therefore, our study suggests that the brain imaging-guided epigenetic analysis has a potential of identifying possible epigenetic mechanisms involved in AUD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)628-639
Number of pages12
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Alcohol Response
  • Alcohol Use Disorder
  • DNA Methylation
  • Insular Cortex
  • Surface Area


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