Sulforaphane restores acetyl-histone H3 binding to Bcl-2 promoter and prevents apoptosis in ethanol-exposed neural crest cells and mouse embryos

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Sulforaphane (SFN) is an isothiocyanate derived from cruciferous vegetables. SFN's cytoprotective properties have been demonstrated in several models associated with a variety of disorders. Our recent studies have shown that SFN protects against ethanol-induced oxidative stress and apoptosis in neural crest cells (NCCs), an ethanol-sensitive cell population implicated in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). This study is designed to test the hypothesis that SFN can prevent ethanol-induced apoptosis in NCCs by inhibiting HDAC and increasing histone acetylation at the Bcl-2 promoter. We found that exposure to 50 mM ethanol resulted in a significant increase in HDAC activities in NCCs. Treatment with SFN decreased the activities of HDAC in ethanol-exposed NCCs. We also found that SFN treatment significantly increased the expression of acetyl-histone H3 in NCCs treated with ethanol. ChIP-qPCR assay revealed that ethanol exposure significantly decreased acetyl-histone H3 binding to the Bcl-2 promoter while supplementing with SFN reversed the ethanol-induced reduction in acetyl-histone H3 binding to the Bcl-2 promoter. In addition, SFN treatment restored the expression of Bcl-2 in ethanol-exposed NCCs and diminished ethanol-induced apoptosis in NCCs. Treatment with SFN also significantly diminished apoptosis in mouse embryos exposed to ethanol in vivo. These results demonstrate that SFN can epigenetically restore the expression of Bcl-2 and attenuate ethanol-induced apoptosis by increasing histone acetylation at the Bcl-2 promoter and suggest that SFN may prevent FASD through epigenetic regulation of the expression of anti-apoptotic genes.

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