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Epigenetics. 2012 Jul;7(7):689-94. doi: 10.4161/epi.20461. Epub 2012 Jul 1.

Supra-physiological folic acid concentrations induce aberrant DNA methylation in normal human cells in vitro.

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Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, UK.


The micronutrients folate and selenium may modulate DNA methylation patterns by affecting intracellular levels of the methyl donor S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) and/or the product of methylation reactions S-adenosylhomocysteine (SAH). WI-38 fibroblasts and FHC colon epithelial cells were cultured in the presence of two forms of folate or four forms of selenium at physiologically-relevant doses, and their effects on LINE-1 methylation, gene-specific CpG island (CGI) methylation and intracellular SAM:SAH were determined. At physiologically-relevant doses the forms of folate or selenium had no effect on LINE-1 or CGI methylation, nor on intracellular SAM:SAH. However the commercial cell culture media used for the selenium studies, containing supra-physiological concentrations of folic acid, induced LINE-1 hypomethylation, CGI hypermethylation and decreased intracellular SAM:SAH in both cell lines. We conclude that the exposure of normal human cells to supra-physiological folic acid concentrations present in commercial cell culture media perturbs the intracellular SAM:SAH ratio and induces aberrant DNA methylation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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