Methyl deficiency, alterations in global histone modifications, and carcinogenesis.
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The methyl-deficient model of endogenous hepatocarcinogenesis in rodents is unique in that dietary omission rather than the addition of chemical carcinogens leads to tumor formation. Thus, the biochemical and molecular events predisposing to cancer in this model result from chronic metabolic stress and provide an ideal model system to study progressive alterations that occur during carcinogenesis. Moreover, epigenetic alterations imposed by this diet are believed to be 1 of the main mechanisms responsible for malignant transformation of rat liver cells. In this study we examined the changes in global histone modification patterns in liver during hepatocarcinogenesis induced by methyl deficiency. Feeding animals the methyl-deficient diet (MDD) led to progressive loss of histone H4 lysine 20 trimethylation (H4K20me3), H3 lysine 9 trimethylation (H3K9me3), and histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9ac) and histone H4 lysine 16 (H4K16ac) acetylation. A considerable decrease of H4K20me3 and H3K9ac was also detected in liver tumors induced by MDD. In contrast, liver tumors displayed an increase in H3K9me3 and H4K16ac. To determine the possible mechanism of alterations of histone modifications, we analyzed the expression of histone-modifying enzymes in liver during hepatocarcinogenesis. The expression of Suv4-20h2 and RIZ1 histone methyltransferases (HMTs) steadily decreased along with the development of liver tumors and reached its lowest level in tumor tissue, whereas the expression of Suv39-h1 HMT and histone acetyltransferase 1 (HAT1) substantially increased in tumors. These results illustrate the complexity and importance of histone modification changes in the etiology of hepatocarcinogenesis induced by MDD.