Persistence of furan-induced epigenetic aberrations in the livers of F344 rats

Toxicol Sci. 2015 Apr;144(2):217-26. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfu313. Epub 2014 Dec 23.


Furan is a heterocyclic organic compound produced in the chemical manufacturing industry and also found in a broad range of food products, including infant formulas and baby foods. Previous reports have indicated that the adverse biological effects of furan, including its liver tumorigenicity, may be associated with epigenetic abnormalities. In the present study, we investigated the persistence of epigenetic alterations in rat liver. Male F344 rats were treated by gavage 5 days per week with 8 mg furan/kg body weight (bw)/day for 90 days. After the last treatment, rats were divided randomly into 4 groups; 1 group of rats was sacrificed 24 h after the last treatment, whereas other groups were maintained without further furan treatment for an additional 90, 180, or 360 days. Treatment with furan for 90 days resulted in alterations in histone lysine methylation and acetylation, induction of base-excision DNA repair genes, suggesting oxidative damage to DNA, and changes in the gene expression in the livers. A majority of these furan-induced molecular changes was transient and disappeared after the cessation of furan treatment. In contrast, histone H3 lysine 9 and H3 lysine 56 showed a sustained and time-depended decrease in acetylation, which was associated with formation of heterochromatin and altered gene expression. These results indicate that furan-induced adverse effects may be mechanistically related to sustained changes in histone lysine acetylation that compromise the ability of cells to maintain and control properly the expression of genetic information.

Keywords: gene expression profiling; genetic toxicology; liver carcinogenesis; microarrays.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • DNA Damage
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Furans / toxicity*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Histones / chemistry
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Lysine / metabolism
  • Male
  • Methylation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344


  • Furans
  • Histones
  • Lysine