Nonlinear transcriptomic response to dietary fat intake in the small intestine of C57BL/6J mice

Tenzin Niyama, M.R. Müller, G.J.E.J. Hooiveld, M. Morine, Marco Scotti*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: A high caloric diet, in conjunction with low levels of physical activity, promotes obesity. Many studies are available regarding the relation between dietary saturated fats and the etiology of obesity, but most focus on
liver, muscle and white adipose tissue. Furthermore, the majority of transcriptomic studies seek to identify linear effects of an external stimulus on gene expression, although such an assumption does not necessarily hold. Our
work assesses the dose-dependent effects of dietary fat intake on differential gene expression in the proximal, middle and distal sections of the small intestine in C57BL/6J mice. Gene expression is analyzed in terms of either
linear or nonlinear responses to fat intake.
Results: The highest number of differentially expressed genes was observed in the middle section. In all intestine
sections, most of the identified processes exhibited a linear response to increasing fat intake. The relative importance of logarithmic and exponential responses was higher in the proximal and distal sections, respectively. Functional enrichment analysis highlighted a constantly linear regulation of acute-phase response along the whole small intestine, with upregulation
of Serpina1b. The study of gene expression showed that exponential down-regulation of cholesterol transport in the middle section is coupled with logarithmic up-regulation of cholesterol homeostasis. A shift from linear
to exponential response was observed in genes involved in the negative regulation of caspase activity, from middle to distal section (e.g., Birc5, up-regulated).
Conclusions: The transcriptomic signature associated with inflammatory processes preserved a linear response in the whole small intestine (e.g., up-regulation of Serpina1b). Processes related to cholesterol homeostasis
were particularly active in the middle small intestine and only the highest fat intake down-regulated cholesterol transport and efflux (with a key role played by the down-regulation of ATP binding cassette transporters). Characterization of nonlinear patterns of gene expression triggered by different levels of dietary fat is an absolute novelty in intestinal studies. This approach helps identifying which processes are overloaded (i.e., positive, logarithmic regulation) or arrested (i.e., negative, exponential regulation) in response to excessive fat intake, and
can shed light on the relationships linking lipid intake to obesity and its associated molecular disturbances.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106
Number of pages14
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • ABC transporters
  • Acute-phase response
  • Cholesterol homeostasis
  • Cholesterol transport and efflux
  • Inflammatory response
  • Small intestine absorption
  • Transcriptomic response to fat intake


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