Besides its direct metabolic effects, insulin induces transcriptional alterations in its target tissues. However, whether such changes are accompanied by epigenetic changes on the chromatin template encompassing insulin responsive genes is unclear. Here, mRNA levels of insulin-responsive
genes hexokinase 2 (Hk2), insulin receptor substrate (Irs2), and the PI3K subunit p85β (Pik3r2) were compared in control versus insulin-stimulated L6 myotubes. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) was performed with antibodies directed to histone H2A, histone variant
H2A.Z, acetylated histone H3 on lysines 9/14, and acetylated H2A.Z. Insulin induced a more than 2-fold Hk2 mRNA increase, while Irs2 and Pik3r2 were downregulated. ChIP to H2A and H2A.Z showed higher H2A.Z accumulation around the transcriptional start site (TSS) of these
insulin-modulated genes, while H2A.Z accumulation was lower distally to the TSS in the Hk2 promoter. H2A.Z levels and H3K9/14 acetylation correlated on several loci along the Hk2 gene, and H3K9/14 as well as H2A.Z acetylation was enhanced by insulin treatment. On the contrary,
reduced H3K9/14 acetylation was observed in insulin-repressed Irs2 and Pik3r2, and recovery of acetylation by treatment with the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A reverted insulin-induced Irs2 downregulation. The chromatin regions encompassing selected insulin-responsive
genes are thus featured by accumulation of H2A.Z around the TSS. H2A.Z accumulation facilitates insulin-dependent modulation of pharmacologically treatable H3K9/14 and H2A.Z acetylations. Indeed, inhibition of histone deacetylases by TSA treatment reverted insulin induced Irs2 gene
downregulation. Dysregulated histone acetylation may thus be potentially targeted with histone deacetylase inhibitors.
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