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J Nutr. 2003 Apr;133(4):1004-10.

Changes in rat hepatic gene expression in response to zinc deficiency as assessed by DNA arrays.

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Technical University of Munich, Molecular Nutrition Unit, D-85350 Freising-Weihenstephan, Germany.


Zinc deficiency affects hepatic functions and due to the central role of the liver in metabolism, this may contribute to metabolic alterations in other tissues in zinc deficiency. In addition to clinical manifestations of zinc deficiency, we used cDNA- and oligonucleotide-arrays to compare the expression of > 2500 different genes in liver of rats force-fed a zinc-adequate or a zinc-deficient diet for 11 d. Radio- or fluorescence-labeled cDNAs from liver of control and zinc-deficient rats were hybridized to arrays. Approximately 1550 mRNAs were detected above background levels; by comparing expression profiles of the two groups, the mRNA levels of 66 genes were found to be altered by zinc deficiency. Steady-state expression levels of 35 genes were reduced, whereas the mRNA-levels of 31 genes were elevated. Array data were verified by Northern blot analysis for 24 selected genes and 19 were confirmed to be up- or down-regulated. Among those, predominantly gene products that participate in growth (i.e., insulin-like growth factor binding proteins), lipid metabolism (long-chain acyl-CoA synthetase), xenobiotic metabolism (cytochrome P(450) isoenzymes), the stress response (glutathione transferase), nitrogen metabolism (cytosolic aspartate aminotransferase), intracellular trafficking (syntaxin isoforms) and signal transduction (G-protein-coupled receptors) were identified. Additionally, regulation of mRNA levels of genes important for porphyrin synthesis and collagen metabolism was observed. In conclusion, we have identified in vivo a number of mammalian genes from different cellular pathways whose expression changes in response to zinc depletion. The characterization of the identified genes and their products will allow a more comprehensive analysis of the role of zinc in metabolism; moreover, the mRNAs identified could be useful in establishing biomarkers for the determination of zinc status in mammals.

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