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BMC Genomics. 2017 Mar 23;18(1):252. doi: 10.1186/s12864-017-3635-4.

Genome-wide expression profiling establishes novel modulatory roles of vitamin C in THP-1 human monocytic cell line.

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Department of Biotechnology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, 110029, India.
Department of Biotechnology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, 110029, India.



Vitamin C (vit C) is an essential dietary nutrient, which is a potent antioxidant, a free radical scavenger and functions as a cofactor in many enzymatic reactions. Vit C is also considered to enhance the immune effector function of macrophages, which are regarded to be the first line of defence in response to any pathogen. The THP-1 cell line is widely used for studying macrophage functions and for analyzing host cell-pathogen interactions.


We performed a genome-wide temporal gene expression and functional enrichment analysis of THP-1 cells treated with 100 μM of vit C, a physiologically relevant concentration of the vitamin. Modulatory effects of vitamin C on THP-1 cells were revealed by differential expression of genes starting from 8 h onwards. The number of differentially expressed genes peaked at the earliest time-point i.e. 8 h followed by temporal decline till 96 h. Further, functional enrichment analysis based on statistically stringent criteria revealed a gamut of functional responses, namely, 'Regulation of gene expression', 'Signal transduction', 'Cell cycle', 'Immune system process', 'cAMP metabolic process', 'Cholesterol transport' and 'Ion homeostasis'. A comparative analysis of vit C-mediated modulation of gene expression data in THP-1cells and human skin fibroblasts disclosed an overlap in certain functional processes such as 'Regulation of transcription', 'Cell cycle' and 'Extracellular matrix organization', and THP-1 specific responses, namely, 'Regulation of gene expression' and 'Ion homeostasis'. It was noteworthy that vit C modulated the 'Immune system' process throughout the time-course.


This study reveals the genome-wide effects of physiological levels of vit C on THP-1 gene expression. The multitude of effects impacted by vit C in macrophages highlights its role in maintaining homeostasis of several cellular functions. This study provides a rational basis for the use of the Vitamin C- THP-1 cell model, to study biochemical and cellular responses to stresses, including infection with M. tuberculosis and other intracellular pathogens.


Gene expression; Macrophages; Microarray; THP-1; Vitamin C

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