Wolters J.E.J. et al.
Valproic acid (VPA) is one of the most widely prescribed antiepileptic drugs in the world. Despite its pharmacological importance, it may cause liver toxicity and steatosis through mitochondrial dysfunction. The aim of this study is to further investigate VPA-induced mechanisms of steatosis by analyzing changes in patterns of methylation in nuclear DNA (nDNA) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Therefore, primary human hepatocytes (PHHs) were exposed to an incubation concentration of VPA that was shown to cause steatosis without inducing overt cytotoxicity. VPA was administered daily for 5 days, and this was followed by a 3 day washout (WO). Methylated DNA regions (DMRs) were identified by using the methylated DNA immunoprecipitation-sequencing (MeDIP-seq) method. The nDNA DMRs after VPA treatment could indeed be classified into oxidative stress- and steatosis-related pathways. In particular, networks of the steatosis-related gene EP300 provided novel insight into the mechanisms of toxicity induced by VPA treatment. Furthermore, we suggest that VPA induces a crosstalk between nDNA hypermethylation and mtDNA hypomethylation that plays a role in oxidative stress and steatosis development. Although most VPA-induced methylation patterns appeared reversible upon terminating VPA treatment, 31 nDNA DMRs (including 5 zinc finger protein genes) remained persistent after the WO period. Overall, we have shown that MeDIP-seq analysis is highly informative in disclosing novel mechanisms of VPA-induced toxicity in PHHs. Our results thus provide a prototype for the novel generation of interesting methylation biomarkers for repeated dose liver toxicity in vitro.