, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 253-256
Date: 01 Nov 2006

DNA methylation, riboswitches, and transcription factor activity: fundamental mechanisms of gene–nutrient interactions involving vitamins

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Nutrient–gene interactions occur with a variety of nutrients including some minerals, vitamins, polyunsaturated fatty acids and other lipids. Fundamental molecular mechanisms that underlie many of the effects of nutrients on gene expression are presented herein. Two of the mechanisms described influence gene transcription: DNA methylation and transcription factor activation. Another mechanism, riboswitching, can regulate gene expression at different levels, for example, at the mRNA translation level. The first two mechanisms are widely distributed across animal phyla. Riboswitches are documented primarily in more primitive organisms, but may prove to be of wider relevance. Riboswitches are known for several vitamins; those involving thiamine are presented here. The role of folates and retinoids in DNA methylation and transcriptional factor (nuclear retinoid receptor) activities, respectively, is presented in the context of cell proliferation and differentiation, and related physiological or pathological effects during embryogenesis and cancer.