Folic acid supplementation alters the DNA methylation profile and improves insulin resistance in high-fat-diet-fed mice

J Nutr Biochem. 2018 Sep:59:76-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2018.05.010. Epub 2018 Jun 2.


Folic acid (FA) supplementation may protect from obesity and insulin resistance, the effects and mechanism of FA on chronic high-fat-diet-induced obesity-related metabolic disorders are not well elucidated. We adopted a genome-wide approach to directly examine whether FA supplementation affects the DNA methylation profile of mouse adipose tissue and identify the functional consequences of these changes. Mice were fed a high-fat diet (HFD), normal diet (ND) or an HFD supplemented with folic acid (20 μg/ml in drinking water) for 10 weeks, epididymal fat was harvested, and genome-wide DNA methylation analyses were performed using methylated DNA immunoprecipitation sequencing (MeDIP-seq). Mice exposed to the HFD expanded their adipose mass, which was accompanied by a significant increase in circulating glucose and insulin levels. FA supplementation reduced the fat mass and serum glucose levels and improved insulin resistance in HFD-fed mice. MeDIP-seq revealed distribution of differentially methylated regions (DMRs) throughout the adipocyte genome, with more hypermethylated regions in HFD mice. Methylome profiling identified DMRs associated with 3787 annotated genes from HFD mice in response to FA supplementation. Pathway analyses showed novel DNA methylation changes in adipose genes associated with insulin secretion, pancreatic secretion and type 2 diabetes. The differential DNA methylation corresponded to changes in the adipose tissue gene expression of Adcy3 and Rapgef4 in mice exposed to a diet containing FA. FA supplementation improved insulin resistance, decreased the fat mass, and induced DNA methylation and gene expression changes in genes associated with obesity and insulin secretion in obese mice fed a HFD.

Keywords: DNA methylation; Folic acid; High-fat diet; Insulin resistance; Obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenylyl Cyclases / genetics
  • Adipose Tissue / drug effects*
  • Adipose Tissue / physiology
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation / drug effects*
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Enzymes / genetics
  • Enzymes / metabolism
  • Folic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors / genetics
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose
  • Enzymes
  • Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors
  • Rapgef4 protein, mouse
  • Folic Acid
  • Adenylyl Cyclases
  • adenylate cyclase 3