Type 2 diabetes is a complex trait with both environmental and hereditary factors contributing to the overall pathogenesis. One link between genes, environment, and disease is epigenetics influencing gene transcription and, consequently, organ function. Genome-wide studies have shown altered DNA methylation in tissues important for glucose homeostasis including pancreas, liver, skeletal muscle, and adipose tissue from subjects with type 2 diabetes compared with nondiabetic controls. Factors predisposing for type 2 diabetes including an adverse intrauterine environment, increasing age, overweight, physical inactivity, a family history of the disease, and an unhealthy diet have all shown to affect the DNA methylation pattern in target tissues for insulin resistance in humans. Epigenetics including DNA methylation may therefore improve our understanding of the type 2 diabetes pathogenesis, contribute to development of novel treatments, and be a useful tool to identify individuals at risk for developing the disease.
Keywords: Aging; DNA methylation; Epigenetics; Genetics; Insulin resistance; Intrauterine environment; Obesity; Type 2 diabetes.