People

Brandon L. Pierce, PhD

Our group works at the intersection of genetic, molecular, and environmental epidemiology. We are interested in how genetic variation influences or alters the effects of environmental exposures and biomarkers on human health and biology. Areas of ongoing research include (1) dynamic features of the genome that are biomarkers of aging, exposure, and disease risk, (2) genetic susceptibility and response to exposure to arsenic, a known carcinogen (3) methods for assessing causal relationships among risk factors, biomarkers, and disease phenotypes, and (4) genetic contributors to prostate cancer disparities. The long-term goals of our work are to understand toxicity mechanisms and disease biology and to improve our ability to predict disease and target interventions to high-risk sub-populations.



Several ongoing projects are described below:



• Arsenic and the Human Genome: Susceptibility and response to exposure: Over 100 million people worldwide consume arsenic-contaminated drinking water, which increases risk for a wide array of health conditions, including cancer. The goal of this project is to identify features of the human genome, both inherited (i.e., SNPs) and acquired/dynamic (i.e., telomere length, DNA methylation, somatic mutations), that reflect susceptibility to arsenic toxicity or response to arsenic exposure, using data from a large arsenic-exposed Bangladeshi cohort. Achieving these goals will reveal biological mechanisms of toxicity and susceptibility and provide strategies for identifying high risk individuals.



• Genetics of Arsenic Metabolism: fine mapping and analysis of rare variants: Susceptibility to arsenic toxicity is partially determined by genetic variants on chromosome 10 which influence individuals’ ability to metabolize arsenic. Dr. Pierce directs a project that will comprehensively characterize the effects of these variants across three arsenic-exposed population groups (Bangladeshis, American Indians, and European Americans).



• Telomere Length and Chromosomal Instability Across Various Tissue Types: Age-related telomere shortening may play a critical role in susceptibility to common age-related diseases, including cancer. Using tissue samples from the NHGRI’s Gene-Tissue Expression project (GTEx), Dr. Pierce’s team is assessing correlations among telomere length measurements taken across many cancer-prone tissues and determining if telomere length is correlated with DNA damage, aging-related DNA methylation features, as well as inherited genetic variation.



• Identifying DNA Methylation Features That Underlie Prostate Cancer Disparities: In light of racial disparities in prostate cancer incidence and mortality in the U.S., Dr. Pierce is leading a project to determine if DNA methylation patterns in prostate tissue differ between African American and Caucasian patients and how such differences are related to clinical features, as well as genetic and environmental factors. This work will contribute to the identification ethnicity-specific biomarkers for prostate cancer aggressiveness.

University of Washington
Seattle
PhD - Public Health Genetics
2008

Washington University School of Medicine
St. Louis
MS - Genetic Epidemiology
2004

Washington University in St. Louis
St. Louis
BA - Biology
2002

Large-scale cis- and trans-eQTL analyses identify thousands of genetic loci and polygenic scores that regulate blood gene expression.
Võsa U, Claringbould A, Westra HJ, Bonder MJ, Deelen P, Zeng B, Kirsten H, Saha A, Kreuzhuber R, Yazar S, Brugge H, Oelen R, de Vries DH, van der Wijst MGP, Kasela S, Pervjakova N, Alves I, Favé MJ, Agbessi M, Christiansen MW, Jansen R, Seppälä I, Tong L, Teumer A, Schramm K, Hemani G, Verlouw J, Yaghootkar H, Sönmez Flitman R, Brown A, Kukushkina V, Kalnapenkis A, Rüeger S, Porcu E, Kronberg J, Kettunen J, Lee B, Zhang F, Qi T, Hernandez JA, Arindrarto W, Beutner F. Large-scale cis- and trans-eQTL analyses identify thousands of genetic loci and polygenic scores that regulate blood gene expression. Nat Genet. 2021 09; 53(9):1300-1310.
PMID: 34475573

Erratum: "Rare, protein-altering variants in AS3MT and arsenic metabolism efficiency: a multi-population association study".
Delgado DA, Chernoff M, Huang L, Tong L, Chen L, Jasmine F, Shinkle J, Cole SA, Haack K, Kent J, Umans J, Best LG, Nelson H, Vander Griend D, Graziano J, Kibriya MG, Navas-Acien A, Karagas MR, Ahsan H, Pierce BL. Erratum: "Rare, protein-altering variants in AS3MT and arsenic metabolism efficiency: a multi-population association study". Environ Health Perspect. 2021 May; 129(5):59003.
PMID: 34038222

Rare, Protein-Altering Variants in AS3MT and Arsenic Metabolism Efficiency: A Multi-Population Association Study.
Delgado DA, Chernoff M, Huang L, Tong L, Chen L, Jasmine F, Shinkle J, Cole SA, Haack K, Kent J, Umans J, Best LG, Nelson H, Griend DV, Graziano J, Kibriya MG, Navas-Acien A, Karagas MR, Ahsan H, Pierce BL. Rare, Protein-Altering Variants in AS3MT and Arsenic Metabolism Efficiency: A Multi-Population Association Study. Environ Health Perspect. 2021 04; 129(4):47007.
PMID: 33826413

CCmed: Cross-condition mediation analysis for identifying replicable trans-associations mediated by cis-gene expression.
Yang F, Gleason KJ, Wang J, Duan J, He X, Pierce BL, Chen LS. CCmed: Cross-condition mediation analysis for identifying replicable trans-associations mediated by cis-gene expression. Bioinformatics. 2021 Feb 27.
PMID: 33647928

Genetically Increased Telomere Length and Aging-Related Traits in the U.K. Biobank.
Demanelis K, Tong L, Pierce BL. Genetically Increased Telomere Length and Aging-Related Traits in the U.K. Biobank. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2021 01 01; 76(1):15-22.
PMID: 31603979

Primo: integration of multiple GWAS and omics QTL summary statistics for elucidation of molecular mechanisms of trait-associated SNPs and detection of pleiotropy in complex traits.
Gleason KJ, Yang F, Pierce BL, He X, Chen LS. Primo: integration of multiple GWAS and omics QTL summary statistics for elucidation of molecular mechanisms of trait-associated SNPs and detection of pleiotropy in complex traits. Genome Biol. 2020 09 11; 21(1):236.
PMID: 32912334

Determinants of telomere length across human tissues.
Demanelis K, Jasmine F, Chen LS, Chernoff M, Tong L, Delgado D, Zhang C, Shinkle J, Sabarinathan M, Lin H, Ramirez E, Oliva M, Kim-Hellmuth S, Stranger BE, Lai TP, Aviv A, Ardlie KG, Aguet F, Ahsan H. Determinants of telomere length across human tissues. Science. 2020 09 11; 369(6509).
PMID: 32913074

The impact of sex on gene expression across human tissues.
Oliva M, Muñoz-Aguirre M, Kim-Hellmuth S, Wucher V, Gewirtz ADH, Cotter DJ, Parsana P, Kasela S, Balliu B, Viñuela A, Castel SE, Mohammadi P, Aguet F, Zou Y, Khramtsova EA, Skol AD, Garrido-Martín D, Reverter F, Brown A, Evans P, Gamazon ER, Payne A, Bonazzola R, Barbeira AN, Hamel AR, Martinez-Perez A, Soria JM. The impact of sex on gene expression across human tissues. Science. 2020 09 11; 369(6509).
PMID: 32913072

Tobacco and marijuana use and their association with serum prostate-specific antigen levels among African American men in Chicago.
Press DJ, Pierce B, Lauderdale DS, Aschebrook-Kilfoy B, Lin Gomez S, Hedeker D, Wright NE, Fantus RJ, Bettencourt L, Ahsan H, Eggener S. Tobacco and marijuana use and their association with serum prostate-specific antigen levels among African American men in Chicago. Prev Med Rep. 2020 Dec; 20:101174.
PMID: 33088675

Genetic Determinants of Reduced Arsenic Metabolism Efficiency in the 10q24.32 Region Are Associated With Reduced AS3MT Expression in Multiple Human Tissue Types.
Chernoff M, Tong L, Demanelis K, Vander Griend D, Ahsan H, Pierce BL. Genetic Determinants of Reduced Arsenic Metabolism Efficiency in the 10q24.32 Region Are Associated With Reduced AS3MT Expression in Multiple Human Tissue Types. Toxicol Sci. 2020 08 01; 176(2):382-395.
PMID: 32433756

View All Publications

RIVER Outstanding Investigator Award (Revolutionizing Innovative, Visionary Environmental Health)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
2017

Finalist for the Brian MacMahon Early Career Epidemiologist Award
Society for Epidemiologic Research
2015

Young Investigator Award
Cancer Research Foundation
2012

Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) Award
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
2011