Coupling global methylation and gene expression profiles reveal key pathophysiological events in liver injury induced by a methyl-deficient diet



Scope: A methyl-deficient diet induces liver injury similar to human nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, one of the main risk factors for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. Previous studies have demonstrated that this diet perturbs DNA methylation by causing a profound loss of global cytosine methylation, predominantly at heavily methylated repetitive sequences. However, whether methyl deficiency affects the methylation status of gene promoters has not been explored.

Methods and results: Mouse gene expression and CpG island microarrays were used to characterize the gene expression and CpG island methylation profiles in the livers of C57BL/6J mice fed a methyl-deficient diet. We detected 164 genes that were differentially expressed and exhibited an inverse relationship between the gene expression and the extent of CpG island methylation. Furthermore, these genes were associated with altered lipid and glucose metabolism, DNA damage and repair, apoptosis, the development of fibrosis, and liver tissue remodeling. Although there were both increased and decreased levels of CpG island methylation, the number of hypomethylated genes was substantially greater than the number of hypermethylated genes.

Conclusion: The results this study demonstrate that pairing methylation profiles with gene expression profiles is a powerful approach to identify dysregulated high-priority fundamental pathophysiological pathways associated with disease development.