Background: Fatty liver disease (FLD), primarily nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is the most common liver disorder that affects a quarter of the global population. NAFLD is a spectrum of disease ranging from simple steatosis to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, which is associated with increased risk of developing liver cancer. Given that the pathogenic mechanisms of fatty liver remain largely elusive, it is important to further investigate potential underlying mechanisms including epigenetic modifications. Here, we performed a systematic review of human epigenetic studies on FLD presence. Methods: Five bibliographic databases were screened until 28 August 2020. We included cross-sectional, case-control and cohort studies in humans that examined the association of epigenetic modifications including global, candidate or epigenome-wide methylation of DNA, noncoding RNAs and histone modifications with FLD. Results: In total 36 articles, based on 33 unique studies, consisting of 12 112 participants met the inclusion criteria. Among these, two recent epigenome-wide association studies conducted among large population-based cohorts have reported the association between cg06690548 (SLC7A11) and FLD. Moreover, several studies have demonstrated the association between microRNAs (miRNAs) and FLD, in which miR-122, miR-34a and miR-192 were recognized as the most relevant miRNAs as biomarkers for FLD. We did not find any studies examining histone modifications in relation to FLD. Conclusions: Cumulative evidence suggests a link between epigenetic mechanisms, specifically DNA methylation and miRNAs, and FLD. Further efforts should investigate the molecular pathways by which these epigenetic markers may regulate FLD and also the potential role of histone modifications in FLD.

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European Journal of Clinical Investigation
Department of Epidemiology

Zhang, X. (Xiaofang), Asllanaj, E., Amiri, M., Portilla-Fernandez, E., Bramer, W., Nano, J., … Ghanbari, M. (2020). Deciphering the role of epigenetic modifications in fatty liver disease: A systematic review. European Journal of Clinical Investigation. doi:10.1111/eci.13479