Open Access Research article

Blood cell gene expression associated with cellular stress defense is modulated by antioxidant-rich food in a randomised controlled clinical trial of male smokers

Siv K Bøhn1, Mari C Myhrstad1, Magne Thoresen2, Marit Holden3, Anette Karlsen1, Siv Haugen Tunheim4, Iris Erlund5, Mette Svendsen6, Ingebjørg Seljeflot7, Jan Ø Moskaug8, Asim K Duttaroy1, Petter Laake2, Harald Arnesen7, Serena Tonstad6, Andrew Collins1, Christan A Drevon1 and Rune Blomhoff1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nutrition, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway

2 Department of Biostatistics, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway

3 Norwegian Computing Centre, Oslo, Norway

4 Centre for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Rikshospitalet-Radiumhospitalet Medical Center, Oslo, Norway

5 Department of Chronic Disease Prevention, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland

6 Department of Preventive Cardiology, Oslo University Hospital, Ullevål, Oslo, Norway

7 Centre for Clinical Heart Research, Department of Cardiology, Oslo University Hospital, Ullevål, Oslo, Norway

8 Department of Biochemistry, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway

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BMC Medicine 2010, 8:54  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-8-54

Published: 16 September 2010

Abstract

Background

Plant-based diets rich in fruit and vegetables can prevent development of several chronic age-related diseases. However, the mechanisms behind this protective effect are not elucidated. We have tested the hypothesis that intake of antioxidant-rich foods can affect groups of genes associated with cellular stress defence in human blood cells. Trial registration number: NCT00520819 http://clinicaltrials.gov webcite.

Methods

In an 8-week dietary intervention study, 102 healthy male smokers were randomised to either a diet rich in various antioxidant-rich foods, a kiwifruit diet (three kiwifruits/d added to the regular diet) or a control group. Blood cell gene expression profiles were obtained from 10 randomly selected individuals of each group. Diet-induced changes on gene expression were compared to controls using a novel application of the gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) on transcription profiles obtained using Affymetrix HG-U133-Plus 2.0 whole genome arrays.

Results

Changes were observed in the blood cell gene expression profiles in both intervention groups when compared to the control group. Groups of genes involved in regulation of cellular stress defence, such as DNA repair, apoptosis and hypoxia, were significantly upregulated (GSEA, FDR q-values < 5%) by both diets compared to the control group. Genes with common regulatory motifs for aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) and AhR nuclear translocator (AhR/ARNT) were upregulated by both interventions (FDR q-values < 5%). Plasma antioxidant biomarkers (polyphenols/carotenoids) increased in both groups.

Conclusions

The observed changes in the blood cell gene expression profiles suggest that the beneficial effects of a plant-based diet on human health may be mediated through optimization of defence processes.