Identification of patients at risk for post-transplant complications is a major challenge, but it will improve clinical care and patient health after organ transplantation. The poor predictive value of the current biomarkers highlights the need to explore novel and innovative methods, such as epigenetics, for the discovery of new biomarkers. Cell differentiation and function of immune cells is dependent on epigenetic mechanisms, which regulate gene expression without altering the original DNA sequence. These epigenetic mechanisms are dynamic, potentially heritable, change with age, and can be regulated and influenced by environmental conditions. One of the most well-known epigenetic mechanisms is DNA methylation, which comprises the methylation of a cytosine (C) next to a guanine (G; CpG dinucleotides). Aberrant DNA methylation is increasingly associated with disease, including immune-mediated diseases, and these alterations precede the clinical phenotype. The impact of DNA methylation profiles on transplant acceptance and rejection as well as on other post-transplant complications is unknown. In this study we examine the current evidence of the functional role of recipient and donor DNA methylation on outcome after organ transplantation. Changes in DNA methylation may predict the risk of developing post-transplant complications, such as infections, malignancies and allograft rejection. We speculate that identification of these changes in DNA methylation contributes to earlier diagnosis and prevention of post-transplant complications, leading to improved patient care.

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The Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation
Department of Internal Medicine

Peters, F., Manintveld, O., Betjes, M., Baan, C., & Boer, K. (2016). Clinical potential of DNA methylation in organ transplantation. The Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation, 35(7), 843–850. doi:10.1016/j.healun.2016.02.007