Obesity is associated with depot-specific alterations in adipocyte DNA methylation and gene expression

Adipocyte. 2017 Apr 3;6(2):124-133. doi: 10.1080/21623945.2017.1320002. Epub 2017 Apr 18.


The present study aimed to identify genes exhibiting concomitant obesity-dependent changes in DNA methylation and gene expression in adipose tissues in the mouse using diet-induced obese (DIO) C57BL/6J and genetically obese ob/ob mice as models. Mature adipocytes were isolated from epididymal and inguinal adipose tissues of ob/ob and DIO C57BL/6J mice. DNA methylation was analyzed by MeDIP-sequencing and gene expression by microarray analysis. The majority of differentially methylated regions (DMRs) were hypomethylated in obese mice. Global methylation of long interspersed elements indicated that hypomethylation did not reflect methyl donor deficiency. In both DIO and ob/ob mice, we observed more obesity-associated methylation changes in epididymal than in inguinal adipocytes. Assignment of DMRs to promoter, exon, intron and intergenic regions demonstrated that DIO-induced changes in DNA methylation in C57BL/6J mice occurred primarily in exons, whereas inguinal adipocytes of ob/ob mice exhibited a higher enrichment of DMRs in promoter regions than in other regions of the genome, suggesting an influence of leptin on DNA methylation in inguinal adipocytes. We observed altered methylation and expression of 9 genes in epididymal adipocytes, including the known obesity-associated genes, Ehd2 and Kctd15, and a novel candidate gene, Irf8, possibly involved in immune type 1/type2 balance. The use of 2 obesity models enabled us to dissociate changes associated with high fat feeding from those associated with obesity per se. This information will be of value in future studies on the mechanisms governing the development of obesity and changes in adipocyte function associated with obesity.

Keywords: epididymal adipose tissue; gene expression; global DNA methylation; inguinal adipose tissue; obesity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / metabolism*
  • Adipocytes / physiology
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • DNA Methylation / physiology
  • Diet
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Exons
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Leptin / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Obese
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic


  • Leptin