Brandon L. Pierce

Associate Professor
Research Summary
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.
Genetic Epidemiology, Telomeres, Gene-Environment Interaction, Arsenic, Cancer, Aging, Epigenetics, gene regulation
  • Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, BA Biology 06/2002
  • Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MS Genetic Epidemiology 06/2004
  • University of Washington, Seattle, PhD Public Health Genetics 03/2008
Biosciences Graduate Program Association
Awards & Honors
  • 2011 - Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) Award National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
  • 2012 - Young Investigator Award Cancer Research Foundation
  • 2015 - Finalist for the Brian MacMahon Early Career Epidemiologist Award Society for Epidemiologic Research
  • 2017 - RIVER Outstanding Investigator Award (Revolutionizing Innovative, Visionary Environmental Health) National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
  1. Metabolomic changes associated with chronic arsenic exposure in a Bangladeshi population. Chemosphere. 2023 Apr; 320:137998. View in: PubMed

  2. 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. View in: PubMed

  3. 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. View in: PubMed

  4. 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. View in: PubMed

  5. Somatic loss of the Y chromosome is associated with arsenic exposure among Bangladeshi men. Int J Epidemiol. 2022 Sep 21. View in: PubMed

  6. 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. View in: PubMed

  7. 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). View in: PubMed

  8. The aging epigenome. Elife. 2022 04 28; 11. View in: PubMed

  9. 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. View in: PubMed

  10. Erratum: "Rare, protein-altering variants in AS3MT and arsenic metabolism efficiency: a multi-population association study". Environ Health Perspect. 2021 May; 129(5):59003. View in: PubMed

  11. Rare, Protein-Altering Variants in AS3MT and Arsenic Metabolism Efficiency: A Multi-Population Association Study. Environ Health Perspect. 2021 04; 129(4):47007. View in: PubMed

  12. CCmed: cross-condition mediation analysis for identifying replicable trans-associations mediated by cis-gene expression. Bioinformatics. 2021 Sep 09; 37(17):2513-2520. View in: PubMed

  13. 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. View in: PubMed

  14. Determinants of telomere length across human tissues. Science. 2020 09 11; 369(6509). View in: PubMed

  15. The impact of sex on gene expression across human tissues. Science. 2020 09 11; 369(6509). View in: PubMed

  16. 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. View in: PubMed

  17. 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. View in: PubMed

  18. Assessing the impact of arsenic metabolism efficiency on DNA methylation using Mendelian randomization. Environ Epidemiol. 2020 Apr; 4(2):e083. View in: PubMed

  19. Research Participants' Attitudes towards Receiving Information on Genetic Susceptibility to Arsenic Toxicity in Rural Bangladesh. Public Health Genomics. 2020; 23(1-2):69-76. View in: PubMed

  20. 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. View in: PubMed

  21. The effect of age on DNA methylation in whole blood among Bangladeshi men and women. BMC Genomics. 2019 Sep 10; 20(1):704. View in: PubMed

  22. Association of Arsenic Exposure with Whole Blood DNA Methylation: An Epigenome-Wide Study of Bangladeshi Adults. Environ Health Perspect. 2019 05; 127(5):57011. View in: PubMed

  23. Correction: A missense variant in FTCD is associated with arsenic metabolism and toxicity phenotypes in Bangladesh. PLoS Genet. 2019 May; 15(5):e1008172. View in: PubMed

  24. A missense variant in FTCD is associated with arsenic metabolism and toxicity phenotypes in Bangladesh. PLoS Genet. 2019 03; 15(3):e1007984. View in: PubMed

  25. Genomics of 1 million parent lifespans implicates novel pathways and common diseases and distinguishes survival chances. Elife. 2019 01 15; 8. View in: PubMed

  26. Circulating vitamin D concentrations and risk of breast and prostate cancer: a Mendelian randomization study. Int J Epidemiol. 2019 10 01; 48(5):1416-1424. View in: PubMed

  27. Urinary metals and leukocyte telomere length in American Indian communities: The Strong Heart and the Strong Heart Family Study. Environ Pollut. 2019 Mar; 246:311-318. View in: PubMed

  28. The contribution of parent-to-offspring transmission of telomeres to the heritability of telomere length in humans. Hum Genet. 2019 Jan; 138(1):49-60. View in: PubMed

  29. Elevation of Stromal-Derived Mediators of Inflammation Promote Prostate Cancer Progression in African-American Men. Cancer Res. 2018 11 01; 78(21):6134-6145. View in: PubMed

  30. Mendelian randomization studies of cancer risk: a literature review. Curr Epidemiol Rep. 2018 Jun; 5(2):184-196. View in: PubMed

  31. A study of telomere length, arsenic exposure, and arsenic toxicity in a Bangladeshi cohort. Environ Res. 2018 07; 164:346-355. View in: PubMed

  32. A novel pooled-sample multiplex luminex assay for high-throughput measurement of relative telomere length. Am J Hum Biol. 2018 07; 30(4):e23118. View in: PubMed

  33. Co-occurring expression and methylation QTLs allow detection of common causal variants and shared biological mechanisms. Nat Commun. 2018 02 23; 9(1):804. View in: PubMed

  34. Screening for gene-environment (G?E) interaction using omics data from exposed individuals: an application to gene-arsenic interaction. Mamm Genome. 2018 02; 29(1-2):101-111. View in: PubMed

  35. A meta-analysis approach with filtering for identifying gene-level gene-environment interactions. Genet Epidemiol. 2018 07; 42(5):434-446. View in: PubMed

  36. Genome-wide association study of telomere length among South Asians identifies a second RTEL1 association signal. J Med Genet. 2018 01; 55(1):64-71. View in: PubMed

  37. Circulating vitamin D concentration and risk of seven cancers: Mendelian randomisation study. BMJ. 2017 10 31; 359:j4761. View in: PubMed

  38. Identifying cis-mediators for trans-eQTLs across many human tissues using genomic mediation analysis. Genome Res. 2017 11; 27(11):1859-1871. View in: PubMed

  39. Incorporation of Biological Knowledge Into the Study of Gene-Environment Interactions. Am J Epidemiol. 2017 Oct 01; 186(7):771-777. View in: PubMed

  40. Lessons Learned From Past Gene-Environment Interaction Successes. Am J Epidemiol. 2017 Oct 01; 186(7):778-786. View in: PubMed

  41. Trans-ethnic predicted expression genome-wide association analysis identifies a gene for estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer. PLoS Genet. 2017 Sep; 13(9):e1006727. View in: PubMed

  42. The association between telomere length and mortality in Bangladesh. Aging (Albany NY). 2017 06 15; 9(6):1537-1551. View in: PubMed

  43. Sex-Specific and Time-Varying Associations Between Cigarette Smoking and Telomere Length Among Older Adults. Am J Epidemiol. 2016 12 15; 184(12):922-932. View in: PubMed

  44. Association between Adult Height and Risk of Colorectal, Lung, and Prostate Cancer: Results from Meta-analyses of Prospective Studies and Mendelian Randomization Analyses. PLoS Med. 2016 Sep; 13(9):e1002118. View in: PubMed

  45. Telomere structure and maintenance gene variants and risk of five cancer types. Int J Cancer. 2016 Dec 15; 139(12):2655-2670. View in: PubMed

  46. Mendelian randomization study of adiposity-related traits and risk of breast, ovarian, prostate, lung and colorectal cancer. Int J Epidemiol. 2016 06; 45(3):896-908. View in: PubMed

  47. Telomere length measurement by a novel Luminex-based assay: a blinded comparison to Southern blot. Int J Mol Epidemiol Genet. 2016; 7(1):18-23. View in: PubMed

  48. Novel Luminex Assay for Telomere Repeat Mass Does Not Show Well Position Effects Like qPCR. PLoS One. 2016; 11(5):e0155548. View in: PubMed

  49. Imputing Gene Expression in Uncollected Tissues Within and Beyond GTEx. Am J Hum Genet. 2016 Apr 07; 98(4):697-708. View in: PubMed

  50. Determinants and Consequences of Arsenic Metabolism Efficiency among 4,794 Individuals: Demographics, Lifestyle, Genetics, and Toxicity. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2016 Feb; 25(2):381-90. View in: PubMed

  51. A unified set-based test with adaptive filtering for gene-environment interaction analyses. Biometrics. 2016 06; 72(2):629-38. View in: PubMed

  52. Height and Breast Cancer Risk: Evidence From Prospective Studies and Mendelian Randomization. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2015 Nov; 107(11). View in: PubMed

  53. Bladder Cancer Mortality in the United States: A Geographic and Temporal Analysis of Socioeconomic and Environmental Factors. J Urol. 2016 Feb; 195(2):290-6. View in: PubMed

  54. Drinking Water Arsenic Contamination, Skin Lesions, and Malignancies: A Systematic Review of the Global Evidence. Curr Environ Health Rep. 2015 Mar; 2(1):52-68. View in: PubMed

  55. Genetic determinants of telomere length and risk of common cancers: a Mendelian randomization study. Hum Mol Genet. 2015 Sep 15; 24(18):5356-66. View in: PubMed

  56. The Genetic Architecture of Arsenic Metabolism Efficiency:A SNP-Based Heritability Study of Bangladeshi Adults. Environ Health Perspect. 2015 10; 123(10):985-92. View in: PubMed

  57. Genome-wide association study of parity in Bangladeshi women. PLoS One. 2015; 10(3):e0118488. View in: PubMed

  58. Interaction between arsenic exposure from drinking water and genetic polymorphisms on cardiovascular disease in Bangladesh: a prospective case-cohort study. Environ Health Perspect. 2015 May; 123(5):451-7. View in: PubMed

  59. Mediation analysis demonstrates that trans-eQTLs are often explained by cis-mediation: a genome-wide analysis among 1,800 South Asians. PLoS Genet. 2014 Dec; 10(12):e1004818. View in: PubMed

  60. Measurement of telomere length: a new assay using QuantiGene chemistry on a Luminex platform. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014 Dec; 23(12):2667-72. View in: PubMed

  61. Arsenic exposure, telomere length, and expression of telomere-related genes among Bangladeshi individuals. Environ Res. 2015 Jan; 136:462-9. View in: PubMed

  62. Gene-specific differential DNA methylation and chronic arsenic exposure in an epigenome-wide association study of adults in Bangladesh. Environ Health Perspect. 2015 Jan; 123(1):64-71. View in: PubMed

  63. Practical barriers and ethical challenges in genetic data sharing. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Aug 15; 11(8):8383-98. View in: PubMed

  64. Genome-wide association studies and heritability estimates of body mass index related phenotypes in Bangladeshi adults. PLoS One. 2014; 9(8):e105062. View in: PubMed

  65. Arsenic and lung disease mortality in Bangladeshi adults. Epidemiology. 2014 Jul; 25(4):536-43. View in: PubMed

  66. Genome-wide association study of smoking behaviours among Bangladeshi adults. J Med Genet. 2014 May; 51(5):327-33. View in: PubMed

  67. Arsenic metabolism efficiency has a causal role in arsenic toxicity: Mendelian randomization and gene-environment interaction. Int J Epidemiol. 2013 Dec; 42(6):1862-71. View in: PubMed

  68. A genome-wide association study of early-onset breast cancer identifies PFKM as a novel breast cancer gene and supports a common genetic spectrum for breast cancer at any age. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014 Apr; 23(4):658-69. View in: PubMed

  69. Genetic susceptibility to accelerated cognitive decline in the US Health and Retirement Study. Neurobiol Aging. 2014 Jun; 35(6):1512.e11-8. View in: PubMed

  70. Urinary and dietary analysis of 18,470 bangladeshis reveal a correlation of rice consumption with arsenic exposure and toxicity. PLoS One. 2013; 8(11):e80691. View in: PubMed

  71. Efficient design for Mendelian randomization studies: subsample and 2-sample instrumental variable estimators. Am J Epidemiol. 2013 Oct 01; 178(7):1177-84. View in: PubMed

  72. Intakes of several nutrients are associated with incidence of arsenic-related keratotic skin lesions in Bangladesh. J Nutr. 2012 Dec; 142(12):2128-34. View in: PubMed

  73. The effect of non-differential measurement error on bias, precision and power in Mendelian randomization studies. Int J Epidemiol. 2012 Oct; 41(5):1383-93. View in: PubMed

  74. Why are diabetics at reduced risk for prostate cancer? A review of the epidemiologic evidence. Urol Oncol. 2012 Sep; 30(5):735-43. View in: PubMed

  75. Unidentified genetic variants influence pancreatic cancer risk: an analysis of polygenic susceptibility in the PanScan study. Genet Epidemiol. 2012 Jul; 36(5):517-24. View in: PubMed

  76. Genome-wide association study identifies chromosome 10q24.32 variants associated with arsenic metabolism and toxicity phenotypes in Bangladesh. PLoS Genet. 2012; 8(2):e1002522. View in: PubMed

  77. Genetic susceptibility to type 2 diabetes and breast cancer risk in women of European and African ancestry. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2012 Mar; 21(3):552-6. View in: PubMed

  78. A prospective study of arsenic exposure from drinking water and incidence of skin lesions in Bangladesh. Am J Epidemiol. 2011 Jul 15; 174(2):185-94. View in: PubMed

  79. Genome-wide "pleiotropy scan" identifies HNF1A region as a novel pancreatic cancer susceptibility locus. Cancer Res. 2011 Jul 01; 71(13):4352-8. View in: PubMed

  80. Association study of type 2 diabetes genetic susceptibility variants and risk of pancreatic cancer: an analysis of PanScan-I data. Cancer Causes Control. 2011 Jun; 22(6):877-83. View in: PubMed

  81. Arsenic exposure, dietary patterns, and skin lesion risk in bangladesh: a prospective study. Am J Epidemiol. 2011 Feb 01; 173(3):345-54. View in: PubMed

  82. A prospective study of the synergistic effects of arsenic exposure and smoking, sun exposure, fertilizer use, and pesticide use on risk of premalignant skin lesions in Bangladeshi men. Am J Epidemiol. 2011 Jan 15; 173(2):183-91. View in: PubMed

  83. Clinical assessment incorporating a personal genome. Lancet. 2010 Sep 11; 376(9744):869; author reply 869-70. View in: PubMed

  84. Power and instrument strength requirements for Mendelian randomization studies using multiple genetic variants. Int J Epidemiol. 2011 Jun; 40(3):740-52. View in: PubMed

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  86. Arsenic exposure from drinking water, and all-cause and chronic-disease mortalities in Bangladesh (HEALS): a prospective cohort study. Lancet. 2010 Jul 24; 376(9737):252-8. View in: PubMed

  87. Dietary B vitamin intakes and urinary total arsenic concentration in the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS) cohort, Bangladesh. Eur J Nutr. 2010 Dec; 49(8):473-81. View in: PubMed

  88. Genetic susceptibility to type 2 diabetes is associated with reduced prostate cancer risk. Hum Hered. 2010; 69(3):193-201. View in: PubMed

  89. A prospective study of body mass index and mortality in Bangladesh. Int J Epidemiol. 2010 Aug; 39(4):1037-45. View in: PubMed

  90. Elevated biomarkers of inflammation are associated with reduced survival among breast cancer patients. J Clin Oncol. 2009 Jul 20; 27(21):3437-44. View in: PubMed

  91. Case-only genome-wide interaction study of disease risk, prognosis and treatment. Genet Epidemiol. 2010 Jan; 34(1):7-15. View in: PubMed

  92. The impact of patents on the development of genome-based clinical diagnostics: an analysis of case studies. Genet Med. 2009 Mar; 11(3):202-9. View in: PubMed

  93. C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and prostate cancer risk in men aged 65 years and older. Cancer Causes Control. 2009 Sep; 20(7):1193-203. View in: PubMed

  94. Diabetes mellitus and prostate cancer risk. Prostate. 2008 Jul 01; 68(10):1126-32. View in: PubMed

  95. Correlates of circulating C-reactive protein and serum amyloid A concentrations in breast cancer survivors. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2009 Mar; 114(1):155-67. View in: PubMed

  96. Measuring dietary acculturation in Japanese Americans with the use of confirmatory factor analysis of food-frequency data. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Aug; 86(2):496-503. View in: PubMed

  97. Genomic scan of 12 hereditary prostate cancer families having an occurrence of pancreas cancer. Prostate. 2007 Mar 01; 67(4):410-5. View in: PubMed

  98. HOXD10 M319K mutation in a family with isolated congenital vertical talus. J Orthop Res. 2006 Mar; 24(3):448-53. View in: PubMed

  99. Localization of PSORS1 to a haplotype block harboring HLA-C and distinct from corneodesmosin and HCR. Hum Genet. 2005 Dec; 118(3-4):466-76. View in: PubMed

  100. Odds ratios for suicide attempts among gay and bisexual men. Am J Public Health. 2003 Jun; 93(6):857; author reply 857-8. View in: PubMed

  101. Common infections in older adults. Am Fam Physician. 2001 Jan 15; 63(2):257-68. View in: PubMed