Integrated analysis of multi-omics data on epigenetic changes caused by combined exposure to environmental hazards

So Yeon Yu, Eun Jung Koh, Seung Hwan Kim, So Yul Lee, Ji Su Lee, Sang Wook Son, Seung Yong Hwang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Humans are easily exposed to environmentally hazardous factors in industrial sites or daily life. In addition, exposure to various substances and not just one harmful substance is common. However, research on the effects of combined exposure on humans is limited. Therefore, this study examined the effects of combined exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) on the human body. We separated 193 participants into four groups according to their work-related exposure (nonexposure, toluene exposure, toluene and xylene exposure, and toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene exposure). We then identified the methylation level and long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) levels by omics analyses, and performed an integrated analysis to examine the change of gene expression. Thereafter, the effects of combined exposure to environmental hazards on the human body were investigated and analyzed. Exposure to VOCs was found to negatively affect the development and maintenance of the nervous system. In particular, the MALAT1 lncRNA was found to be significantly reduced in the complex exposure group, and eight genes were significantly downregulated by DNA hypermethylation. The downregulation of these genes could cause a possible decrease in the density of synapses as well as the number and density of dendrites and spines. In summary, we found that increased combined exposure to environmental hazards could lead to additional epigenetic changes, and consequently abnormal dendrites, spines, and synapses, which could damage motor learning or spatial memory. Thus, lncRNA MALAT1 or FMR1 could be novel biomarkers of neurotoxicity to identify the negative health effects of VOC complex exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1001-1010
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jun


  • combined exposure
  • epigenetic
  • long noncoding RNA
  • long-term depression
  • synapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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