Widespread seasonal gene expression reveals annual differences in human immunity and physiology.
Dopico XC., Evangelou M., Ferreira RC., Guo H., Pekalski ML., Smyth DJ., Cooper N., Burren OS., Fulford AJ., Hennig BJ., Prentice AM., Ziegler A-G., Bonifacio E., Wallace C., Todd JA.
Seasonal variations are rarely considered a contributing component to human tissue function or health, although many diseases and physiological process display annual periodicities. Here we find more than 4,000 protein-coding mRNAs in white blood cells and adipose tissue to have seasonal expression profiles, with inverted patterns observed between Europe and Oceania. We also find the cellular composition of blood to vary by season, and these changes, which differ between the United Kingdom and The Gambia, could explain the gene expression periodicity. With regards to tissue function, the immune system has a profound pro-inflammatory transcriptomic profile during European winter, with increased levels of soluble IL-6 receptor and C-reactive protein, risk biomarkers for cardiovascular, psychiatric and autoimmune diseases that have peak incidences in winter. Circannual rhythms thus require further exploration as contributors to various aspects of human physiology and disease.