Background: Chronic liver injury can lead to the development of liver fibrosis and cirrhosis but only in a minority of patients. Currently, it is not clear which factors determine progression to fibrosis. We investigated whether DNA\methylation profile as determined by pyrosequencing can distinguish patients with mild from those with advanced/severe fibrosis in non-alcoholic liver disease (NAFLD) and alcoholic liver disease (ALD). To this end, paraffin-embedded liver biopsies were collected from patients with biopsy-proven NAFLD or ALD, as well as paraffin-embedded normal liver resections, genomic DNA isolated, bisulfite converted and pyrosequencing assays used to quantify DNA methylation at specific CpGs within PPARα, PPARα, TGFβ1, Collagen 1A1 and PDGFα genes. Furthermore, we assessed the impact of age, gender and anatomical location within the liver on patterns of DNA methylation in the same panel of genes.
Results: DNA methylation at specific CpGs within genes known to affect fibrogenesis distinguishes between patients with mild from those with severe fibrosis in both NAFLD and ALD, although same CpGs are not equally represented in both etiologies. In normal liver, age, gender or anatomical location had no significant impact on DNA methylation patterns in the liver.
Conclusions: DNA methylation status at specific CpGs may be useful as part of a wider set of patient data for predicting progression to liver fibrosis.
Keywords: ALD; DNA methylation; Epigenetics; NAFLD; Pyrosequencing.