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Environ Health Perspect. 2011 May;119(5):635-40. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1002910. Epub 2010 Dec 13.

Epigenetic alterations in liver of C57BL/6J mice after short-term inhalational exposure to 1,3-butadiene.

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  • 1Division of Biochemical Toxicology, National Center for Toxicological Research, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Jefferson, Arkansas, USA.



1,3-Butadiene (BD) is a high-volume industrial chemical and a known human carcinogen. The main mode of BD carcinogenicity is thought to involve formation of genotoxic epoxides.


In this study we tested the hypothesis that BD may be epigenotoxic (i.e., cause changes in DNA and histone methylation) and explored the possible molecular mechanisms for the epigenetic changes.


We administered BD (6.25 and 625 ppm) to C57BL/6J male mice by inhalation for 2 weeks (6 hr/day, 5 days a week) and then examined liver tissue from these mice for signs of toxicity using histopathology and gene expression analyses. We observed no changes in mice exposed to 6.25 ppm BD, but glycogen depletion and dysregulation of hepatotoxicity biomarker genes were observed in mice exposed to 625 ppm BD. We detected N-7-(2,3,4-trihydroxybut-1-yl)guanine (THB-Gua) adducts in liver DNA of exposed mice in a dose-responsive manner, and also observed extensive alterations in the cellular epigenome in the liver, including demethylation of global DNA and repetitive elements and a decrease in histone H3 and H4 lysine methylation. In addition, we observed down-regulation of DNA methyltransferase 1 (Dnmt1) and suppressor of variegation 3-9 homolog 1, a histone lysine methyltransferase (Suv39h1), and up-regulation of the histone demethylase Jumonji domain 2 (Jmjd2a), proteins responsible for the accurate maintenance of the epigenetic marks. Although the epigenetic effects were most pronounced in the 625-ppm exposure group, some effects were evident in mice exposed to 6.25 ppm BD.


This study demonstrates that exposure to BD leads to epigenetic alterations in the liver, which may be important contributors to the mode of BD carcinogenicity.

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