Identification of Accessible Hepatic Gene Signatures for Interindividual Variations in Nutrigenomic Response to Dietary Supplementation of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Cells. 2021 Feb 22;10(2):467. doi: 10.3390/cells10020467.


Dietary supplementation is a widely adapted strategy to maintain nutritional balance for improving health and preventing chronic diseases. Conflicting results in studies of similar design, however, suggest that there is substantial heterogenicity in individuals' responses to nutrients, and personalized nutrition is required to achieve the maximum benefit of dietary supplementation. In recent years, nutrigenomics studies have been increasingly utilized to characterize the detailed genomic response to a specific nutrient, but it remains a daunting task to define the signatures responsible for interindividual variations to dietary supplements for tissues with limited accessibility. In this work, we used the hepatic response to omega-3 fatty acids as an example to probe such signatures. Through comprehensive analysis of nutrigenomic response to eicosapentaneoid acid (EPA) and/or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) including both protein coding and long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) genes in human hepatocytes, we defined the EPA- and/or DHA-specific signature genes in hepatocytes. By analyzing gene expression variations in livers of healthy and relevant disease populations, we identified a set of protein coding and lncRNA signature genes whose responses to omega-3 fatty acid exhibit very high interindividual variabilities. The large variabilities of individual responses to omega-3 fatty acids were further validated in human hepatocytes from ten different donors. Finally, we profiled RNAs in exosomes isolated from the circulation of a liver-specific humanized mouse model, in which the humanized liver is the sole source of human RNAs, and confirmed the in vivo detectability of some signature genes, supporting their potential as biomarkers for nutrient response. Taken together, we have developed an efficient and practical procedure to identify nutrient-responsive gene signatures as well as accessible biomarkers for interindividual variations.

Keywords: biomarker; cardiometabolic disease; exosome; humanized mice; hyperlipidemia; liver; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD); nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH); omega-3 fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dietary Supplements / standards*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipidemias / drug therapy*
  • Mice
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / drug therapy*
  • Nutrigenomics / methods*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3