Beyond genetics: Epigenetic code in chronic kidney disease

Rama S. Dwivedi, James G. Herman, Timothy A. McCaffrey, Dominic S C Raj

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Epigenetics refers to a heritable change in the pattern of gene expression that is mediated by a mechanism specifically not due to alterations in the primary nucleotide sequence. Well-known epigenetic mechanisms encompass DNA methylation, chromatin remodeling (histone modifications), and RNA interference. Functionally, epigenetics provides an extra layer of transcriptional control and plays a crucial role in normal physiological development, as well as in pathological conditions. Aberrant DNA methylation is implicated in immune dysfunction, inflammation, and insulin resistance. Epigenetic changes may be responsible for metabolic memory and development of micro- and macrovascular complications of diabetes. MicroRNAs are critical in the maintenance of glomerular homeostasis and hence RNA interference may be important in the progression of renal disease. Recent studies have shown that epigenetic modifications orchestrate the epithelial-mesenchymal transition and eventually fibrosis of the renal tissue. Oxidative stress, inflammation, hyperhomocysteinemia, and uremic toxins could induce epimutations in chronic kidney disease. Epigenetic alterations are associated with inflammation and cardiovascular disease in patients with chronic kidney disease. Reversible nature of the epigenetic changes gives a unique opportunity to halt or even reverse the disease process through targeted therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-32
Number of pages10
JournalKidney International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • chronic kidney disease
  • ESRD
  • genetics and development
  • mRNA
  • obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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