Our Faculty

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: 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 cohorts in Bangladesh and the U.S. Achieving these goals will reveal biological mechanisms of toxicity and susceptibility and provide strategies for identifying high risk individuals.



• Telomere Length and and DNA methylation in Diverse Human 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 characterizing determinants of telomere length measurements taken across many cancer-prone tissues. Dr. Pierce's team is also studying DNA methylation features in these diverse tissue types, characterizing the effects of exposures, aging, and inherited genetic variants.



• 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

Metabolomic changes associated with chronic arsenic exposure in a Bangladeshi population.
Metabolomic changes associated with chronic arsenic exposure in a Bangladeshi population. Chemosphere. 2023 Apr; 320:137998.
PMID: 36746250

Sequencing-based fine-mapping and in silico functional characterization of the 10q24.32 arsenic metabolism efficiency locus across multiple arsenic-exposed populations.
Sequencing-based fine-mapping and in silico functional characterization of the 10q24.32 arsenic metabolism efficiency locus across multiple arsenic-exposed populations. PLoS Genet. 2023 01; 19(1):e1010588.
PMID: 36668670

DNA methylation QTL mapping across diverse human tissues provides molecular links between genetic variation and complex traits.
DNA methylation QTL mapping across diverse human tissues provides molecular links between genetic variation and complex traits. Nat Genet. 2023 01; 55(1):112-122.
PMID: 36510025

Inherited genetic effects on arsenic metabolism: A comparison of effects on arsenic species measured in urine and in blood.
Inherited genetic effects on arsenic metabolism: A comparison of effects on arsenic species measured in urine and in blood. Environ Epidemiol. 2022 Dec; 6(6):e230.
PMID: 36530933

Somatic loss of the Y chromosome is associated with arsenic exposure among Bangladeshi men.
Somatic loss of the Y chromosome is associated with arsenic exposure among Bangladeshi men. Int J Epidemiol. 2022 Sep 21.
PMID: 36130227

Associations of polygenic risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder with general and specific dimensions of childhood psychological problems and facets of impulsivity.
Associations of polygenic risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder with general and specific dimensions of childhood psychological problems and facets of impulsivity. J Psychiatr Res. 2022 08; 152:187-193.
PMID: 35752070

Relative Telomere Length Change in Colorectal Carcinoma and Its Association with Tumor Characteristics, Gene Expression and Microsatellite Instability.
Relative Telomere Length Change in Colorectal Carcinoma and Its Association with Tumor Characteristics, Gene Expression and Microsatellite Instability. Cancers (Basel). 2022 Apr 30; 14(9).
PMID: 35565379

The aging epigenome.
The aging epigenome. Elife. 2022 04 28; 11.
PMID: 35481978

Large-scale cis- and trans-eQTL analyses identify thousands of genetic loci and polygenic scores that regulate blood gene expression.
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".
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

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