Hypoxia-inducible factor 3A gene expression and methylation in adipose tissue is related to adipose tissue dysfunction

Sci Rep. 2016 Jun 27:6:27969. doi: 10.1038/srep27969.


Recently, a genome-wide analysis identified DNA methylation of the HIF3A (hypoxia-inducible factor 3A) as strongest correlate of BMI. Here we tested the hypothesis that HIF3A mRNA expression and CpG-sites methylation in adipose tissue (AT) and genetic variants in HIF3A are related to parameters of AT distribution and function. In paired samples of subcutaneous AT (SAT) and visceral AT (VAT) from 603 individuals, we measured HIF3A mRNA expression and analyzed its correlation with obesity and related traits. In subgroups of individuals, we investigated the effects on HIF3A genetic variants on its AT expression (N = 603) and methylation of CpG-sites (N = 87). HIF3A expression was significantly higher in SAT compared to VAT and correlated with obesity and parameters of AT dysfunction (including CRP and leucocytes count). HIF3A methylation at cg22891070 was significantly higher in VAT compared to SAT and correlated with BMI, abdominal SAT and VAT area. Rs8102595 showed a nominal significant association with AT HIF3A methylation levels as well as with obesity and fat distribution. HIF3A expression and methylation in AT are fat depot specific, related to obesity and AT dysfunction. Our data support the hypothesis that HIF pathways may play an important role in the development of AT dysfunction in obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / biosynthesis*
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Body Fat Distribution
  • Body Mass Index
  • DNA Methylation / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / metabolism
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Subcutaneous Fat / metabolism
  • Subcutaneous Fat / physiopathology*


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • HIF3A protein, human
  • Repressor Proteins