It has been proposed that unmethylated insulin promoter fragments in plasma derive exclusively from β-cells, reflect their recent demise and can be used to assess β-cell damage in type 1 diabetes. Herein we describe an ultrasensitive assay for detection of a β-cell-specific DNA methylation signature, by simultaneous assessment of six DNA methylation markers, that identifies β-cell DNA in mixtures containing as little as 0.03% β-cell DNA (less than one β-cell genome equivalent). With this assay, plasma from non-diabetic individuals (N=218, aged 4-78 years) contained on average only one β-cell genome equivalent/ml. As expected, β-cell cfDNA was significantly elevated in islet transplant recipients shortly after transplantation. We also detected β-cell cfDNA in a patient with KATP congenital hyperinsulinism where substantial β-cell turnover is thought to occur. Strikingly, in contrast to previous reports, we observed no elevation of β-cell-derived cfDNA in autoantibody positive subjects at-risk for type 1 diabetes (N=32), individuals with recent-onset type 1 diabetes (<4 months, N=92), or those with a long-standing disease (>4 months, N=38). We discuss the utility of sensitive beta-cell cfDNA analysis and potential explanations for the lack of a β-cell cfDNA signal in T1D.
Daniel Neiman, David Gillis, Sheina Piyanzin, Daniel Cohen, Ori Fridlich, Joshua Moss, Aviad Zick, Tal Oron, Frida Sundberg, Gun Forsander, Oskar Skog, Olle Korsgren, Floris Levy-Khademi, Dan Arbell, Saar Hashavya, A.M. James Shapiro, Cate Speake, Carla Greenbaum, Jennifer Hosford, Amanda Posgai, Mark A. Atkinson, Benjamin Glaser, Desmond Schatz, Ruth Shemer, Yuval Dor