Hyperinsulinemia promotes aberrant histone acetylation in triple-negative breast cancer

Parijat Senapati, Hiroyuki Kato, Michael Lee, Amy Leung, Christine Thai, Angelica Sanchez, Emily J. Gallagher, Derek Leroith, Victoria L. Seewaldt, David K. Ann, Dustin E. Schones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: Hyperinsulinemia, the presence of excess insulin relative to glucose in the blood, is considered to be a poor prognostic indicator for patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). mTOR, a downstream effector of insulin, enhances mitochondrial biogenesis and activity, thereby increasing acetyl-CoA precursors. Increased acetyl-CoA can, in turn, be utilized by nuclear acetyltransferases for histone acetylation, a critical feature of genome regulation. While signaling pathways downstream of insulin have been established for sometime, the effect of insulin on chromatin remains unclear. We hypothesized that hyperinsulinemia-induced metabolic changes lead to genome-wide changes in histone acetylation in TNBC. Results: MDA-MB-231 cells were xenografted into hyperinsulinemic and wild-type mice. Tumors in the hyperinsulinemic mice displayed elevated levels of histone acetylation compared to tumors in normal insulin conditions. We show that insulin treatment in vitro leads to global increase in chromatin-associated histone acetylation, in particular at H3K9, through the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway. Genome-wide analyses revealed that most promoter regions have an increase in histone acetylation upon insulin treatment. In addition, insulin induces higher levels of reactive oxygen species and DNA damage foci in cells. Conclusions: These results demonstrate the impact of hyperinsulinemia on altered gene regulation through chromatin and the importance of targeting hyperinsulinemia-induced processes that lead to chromatin dysfunction in TNBC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number44
JournalEpigenetics and Chromatin
Issue number1
StatePublished - 17 Jul 2019


  • Chromatin
  • Histone acetylation
  • Hyperinsulinemia
  • Insulin
  • TNBC


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