History of parvovirus B19 infection is associated with a DNA methylation signature in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Gisele M. Vasconcelos, Brock C. Christensen, E. Andrés Houseman, Jianqiao Xiao, Carmen J. Marsit, John K. Wiencke, Shichun Zheng, Margaret R. Karagas, Heather H. Nelson, Margaret R. Wrensch, Karl T. Kelsey, Maria S. Pombo-de-Oliveira, Joseph L. Wiemels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) likely has a multistep etiology, with initial genetic aberrations occurring early in life. An abnormal immune response to common infections has emerged as a plausible candidate for triggering the proliferation of pre-leukemic clones and the fixation of secondary genetic mutations and epigenetic alterations. We investigated whether evidence of infection with a specific common myelotropic childhood virus, parvovirus B19 (PVB19), relates to patterns of gene promoter DNA methylation in ALL patients. We serologically tested bone marrow samples at diagnosis of B-cell ALL for PVB19 infection and DNA methylation using a high-throughput bead array and found that 4.2% and 36.7% of samples were seroreactive to PVB19 IgM and IgG, respectively. Leukemia samples were grouped by DNA methylation pattern. Controlling for age and immunophenotype, unsupervised modeling confirmed that the DNA methylation pattern was associated with history of PVB19 (assessed by IgG, p = 0.02), but not recent infection (assessed by IgM). Replication assays on single genes were consistent with the association. The data indicate that a common viral illness may drive specific DNA methylation patterns in susceptible B-precursor cells, contributing to the leukemogenic potential of such cells. Infections may impact childhood leukemia by altering DNA methylation patterns and specific key genes in susceptible cells; these changes may be retained even after the clearance of infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1436-1443
Number of pages8
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
G.M.V. was supported by CAPES no. BEX2663/07-4, Brazil. Also supported by grants from the Children with Leukaemia Foundation, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society 6026-10, the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program of California, and R01CA109745 and P01ES018172 (J.L.W.), and the Swiss Bridge Foundation and CNPq-Brazil (M.P.O.).


  • Childhood leukemia
  • DNA methylation
  • Parvovirus B19
  • Serology


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