Lifestyle influences metabolism via DNA methylation

September 20, 2013

An unhealthy lifestyle leaves traces in the DNA. These may have specific effects on metabolism, causing organ damage or disease. Scientists of Helmholtz Zentrum München have now identified 28 DNA alterations associated with metabolic traits. This world-first epigenome-wide association study (EWAS) of modified genes and metabolites has been now published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.

In the course of life, aging processes, environmental influences and lifestyle factors such as smoking or diet induce biochemical alterations to the DNA. Frequently, these lead to DNA methylation, a process in which methyl groups are added to particular DNA segments, without changing the DNA sequence. Such processes can influence gene function and are known as epigenetics. Scientists of the Institute of Genetic Epidemiology (IGE) and the Research Unit Molecular Epidemiology (AME) at Helmholtz Zentrum München are seeking to determine what association exists between these epigenetic processes and the health consequences, in particular for the metabolism.

To this end, the team led by Christian Gieger (IGE) and Melanie Waldenberger (AME), in in collaboration with Karsten Suhre of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar analyzed blood samples from more than 1800 participants of the KORA study. In doing so, they analyzed more than 457,000 loci in the DNA as to biochemical alterations and compared them with the concentrations of 649 different metabolites. The analysis showed that the methylation of 28 DNA segments changed a number of important metabolic processes.

In the relevant DNA regions there were also already known disease-related genes: for example, the TXNIP gene that regulates and is associated with the development of diabetes mellitus. Appropriately, with the methylated TXNIP there were altered concentrations of metabolites from the lipid and glucose metabolism. Also genes that are known to be biochemically altered due to smoking affect different metabolic activities, and specifically those with corresponding biological functions.

"This study gives us new insights into how lifestyle factors can influence metabolism via the resulting alterations in the DNA," said Gieger, research group leader at the IGE. "We can now use these results to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes."

Explore further: DNA changes during pregnancy persist into childhood

More information: Petersen, A.-K. et al. (2013). Epigenetics meets metabolomics: An epigenome-wide association study with blood serum metabolic traits, Human Molecular Genetics, DOI: 10.1093/hmg/ddt430

Related Stories

DNA changes during pregnancy persist into childhood

September 4, 2013
Even before they are born, babies accumulate changes in their DNA through a process called DNA methylation that may interfere with gene expression, and in turn, their health as they grow up. But until now it's been unclear ...

Genetics meets metabolomics

September 1, 2011
Scientists at Helmholtz Zentrum Munich and LMU Munich, in cooperation with Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and King's College London (KCL), have identified several associations between genetic variants and specific metabolic ...

Homing in on developmental epigenetics

August 23, 2013
Germ cells have unique molecular features that enable them to perform the important task of transmitting genetic information to the next generation. During development from their embryonic primordial state, germ cells are ...

Epigenetic changes to fat cells following exercise

July 3, 2013
Exercise, even in small doses, changes the expression of our innate DNA. New research from Lund University in Sweden has described for the first time what happens on an epigenetic level in fat cells when we undertake physical ...

Weight loss surgery alters fatty liver disease genes

August 6, 2013
Research has shown that weight loss surgery can benefit obese individuals in ways that go beyond shedding pounds, for example by causing early remission of type 2 diabetes. Now scientists have found that the surgery can also ...

Recommended for you

Scientists identify new way cells turn off genes

July 19, 2017
Cells have more than one trick up their sleeve for controlling certain genes that regulate fetal growth and development.

South Asian genomes could be boon for disease research, scientists say

July 18, 2017
The Indian subcontinent's massive population is nearing 1.5 billion according to recent accounts. But that population is far from monolithic; it's made up of nearly 5,000 well-defined sub-groups, making the region one of ...

Mutant yeast reveals details of the aberrant genomic machinery of children's high-grade gliomas

July 18, 2017
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital biologists have used engineered yeast cells to discover how a mutation that is frequently found in pediatric brain tumor high-grade glioma triggers a cascade of genomic malfunctions.

Late-breaking mutations may play an important role in autism

July 17, 2017
A study of nearly 6,000 families, combining three genetic sequencing technologies, finds that mutations that occur after conception play an important role in autism. A team led by investigators at Boston Children's Hospital ...

Newly discovered gene variants link innate immunity and Alzheimer's disease

July 17, 2017
Three new gene variants, found in a genome wide association study of Alzheimer's disease (AD), point to the brain's immune cells in the onset of the disorder. These genes encode three proteins that are found in microglia, ...

Newly identified genetic marker may help detect high-risk flu patients

July 17, 2017
Researchers have discovered an inherited genetic variation that may help identify patients at elevated risk for severe, potentially fatal influenza infections. The scientists have also linked the gene variant to a mechanism ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.