Current Hypertension Reports

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 21–28 | Cite as

Epigenetics and Hypertension

  • Richard M. MillisEmail author


Epigenetics refers to mechanisms for environment–gene interactions (mainly by methylation of DNA and modification of histones) that do not alter the underlying base sequence of the gene. This article reviews evidence for epigenetic contributions to hypertension. For example, DNA methylation at CpG islands and histone acetylation pathways are known to limit nephron development, thereby unmasking hypertension associated with exposure to a high-salt diet. Maternal water deprivation and protein deficiency are shown to increase expression of renin-angiotensin system genes in the offspring. The methylation pattern of a serine protease inhibitor gene in human placentas is shown to be a marker for preeclampsia-associated hypertension. Mental stress induces phenylethanolamine n-methyltransferase, which may act as a DNA methylase and mimic the gene-silencing effects of methyl CpG binding protein-2 on the norepinephrine transporter gene, which, in turn, may exaggerate autonomic responsiveness. A disrupter of telomeric silencing (Dot1) is known to modulate the expression of a connective-tissue growth-factor gene associated with blood vessel remodeling, which could alter vascular compliance and elastance. Dot1a also interacts with the Af9 gene to produce high sodium channel permeability and silences the hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-11β2 gene, thereby preventing metabolism of cortisol to cortisone and overstimulating aldosterone receptors. These findings indicate targets for environment–gene interactions in various hypertensive states and in essential hypertension.


Epigenetics Essential hypertension Salt-sensitive hypertension Preeclampsia DNA methylation CpG island Histone acetylation Renin-angiotensin system Mineralocorticoid receptor Pregnancy Intrauterine stress Placenta Prenatal water deprivation Prenatal protein deficiency Phenylethanolamine methyltransferase Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-11β2 Methyl CpG binding protein-2 Norepinephrine transporter Disrupter of telomeric silencing Gene silencing Epithelial sodium channel Mixed lineage leukemia (Af9) gene Serine protease inhibitor A3 gene 



No potential conflicts of interest relevant to this article were reported.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physiology & BiophysicsHoward University College of MedicineWashingtonUSA

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