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J Nutr Biochem. 2009 Dec;20(12):917-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2009.06.008. Epub 2009 Sep 4.

DNA methylation, an epigenetic mechanism connecting folate to healthy embryonic development and aging.

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  • 1Vitamins and Carcinogenesis Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111, USA.

Abstract

Experimental studies demonstrated that maternal exposure to certain environmental and dietary factors during early embryonic development can influence the phenotype of offspring as well as the risk of disease development at the later life. DNA methylation, an epigenetic phenomenon, has been suggested as a mechanism by which maternal nutrients affect the phenotype of their offspring in both honeybee and agouti mouse models. Phenotypic changes through DNA methylation can be linked to folate metabolism by the knowledge that folate, a coenzyme of one-carbon metabolism, is directly involved in methyl group transfer for DNA methylation. During the fetal period, organ-specific DNA methylation patterns are established through epigenetic reprogramming. However, established DNA methylation patterns are not immutable and can be modified during our lifetime by the environment. Aberrant changes in DNA methylation with diet may lead to the development of age-associated diseases including cancer. It is also known that the aging process by itself is accompanied by alterations in DNA methylation. Diminished activity of DNA methyltransferases (Dnmts) can be a potential mechanism for the decreased genomic DNA methylation during aging, along with reduced folate intake and altered folate metabolism. Progressive hypermethylation in promoter regions of certain genes is observed throughout aging, and repression of tumor suppressors induced by this epigenetic mechanism appears to be associated with cancer development. In this review, we address the effect of folate on early development and aging through an epigenetic mechanism, DNA methylation.

PMID:
19733471
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2783701
Free PMC Article

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