Epigenetics, DNA Organization, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Ray G1, Longworth MS1. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2018 Nov 8. doi: 10.1093/ibd/izy330. [Epub ahead of print]

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1 Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.


Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) are chronic inflammatory disorders affecting the gastrointestinal tract. The incidence of IBD is increasing, with more cases occurring in developed countries. Multiple factors such as genetics, environmental changes, gut microbiota, and immune abnormalities have been associated with development of IBD. In recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that epigenetic modifications of chromatin and the manner in which chromatin is organized in the nucleus are additionally important elements that can influence responses induced by the factors described above, and may therefore contribute to the onset and pathogenesis of IBD. Epigenetics and chromatin organization regulate diverse functions that include maintenance of homeostasis in the intestinal epithelium, the development and differentiation of immune cells, and modulation of responses generated by the immune system to defend against potential pathogens. Furthermore, changes in epigenetic chromatin marks and in chromatin organization have now been linked to differential gene expression in IBD patient cells. Although direct evidence for a role of histone modifications in IBD is currently very limited, in this review, we summarize the links between various epigenetic modifications, the proteins that catalyze or recognize these modifications, and the development or progression of IBD in human and experimental IBD. We also discuss how epigenetics influence the organization of DNA contacts to regulate gene expression and the implications this may have for diagnosing and treating IBD.

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