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Mol Aspects Med. 2017 Apr;54:28-36. doi: 10.1016/j.mam.2016.11.007. Epub 2016 Nov 19.

One-carbon metabolism and epigenetics.

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Department of Medicine, University of Verona School of Medicine, Verona, Italy. Electronic address:
Department of Medicine, University of Verona School of Medicine, Verona, Italy.
Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Boston, MA, USA; Chaum Life Center, CHA University, Seoul, South Korea.


The function of one-carbon metabolism is that of regulating the provision of methyl groups for biological methylation reactions including that of DNA and histone proteins. Methylation at specific sites into the DNA sequence and at histone tails are among the major epigenetic feature of mammalian genome for the regulation of gene expression. The enzymes within one-carbon metabolism are dependent from a number of vitamins or nutrients that serve either as co-factors or methyl acceptors or donors among which folate, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, betaine, choline and methionine have a major role. Several evidences show that there is a strict inter-relationship between one-carbon metabolism nutrients and epigenetic phenomena. Epigenetics is closely involved in gene transcriptional regulation through modifications super-imposed to the nucleotide sequence of DNA, such as DNA methylation, through chromatin remodeling systems that involves post-translational modifications of histones or through non-coding RNAs-based mechanisms. The epigenetic features of the genome are potentially modifiable by the action of several environmental factors among which nutrients cover a special place and interest considering their potential of influencing regulatory pathways at a molecular level by specific nutritional intervention and eventually influence disease prevention and outcomes. The present review will focus on the link between one-carbon nutrients and epigenetic phenomena based on the current knowledge from findings in cell culture, animal models and human studies.


Choline; DNA methylation; Epigenetics; Folate; Histone modifications; One-carbon metabolism

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