Human Health & Nutrition

Identification of the effects of zinc deficiency on vascular health in rats

Zinc is a necessary dietary component and deficiencies can lead to a range of developmental and health issues. BioSS has been closely involved in the design and analysis of a study by scientists at RINH of the impact of zinc deficiency on vascular health in rats by measuring changes in gene expression. RNA samples were obtained from a two stage experiment. Firstly, rats were fed diets resulting in different levels of zinc deficiency: a zinc deficient group at a zinc level of 9 µM (ZD9) and a zinc adequate group (ZA27) at 27 µM. As zinc deficiency leads to reduced food intake, a third group was fed the same amount of food as the ZD group but at an adequate zinc level (PF27). In the second stage, vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) were treated with plasma from these animals, including a fourth treatment group (ZD27) where zinc was added back to the plasma of the zinc deficient group. This allowed us to separate direct and indirect effects of plasma zinc. RNA samples obtained from the VSMCs were allocated on Agilent 2-channel microarrays in a design that compared gene expression as precisely as possible between the different zinc treatment groups. In addition to an analysis to detect differential gene expression, we used existing biological information on gene pathways from databases such as Gene Ontology (GO), KeGG or Reactome to motivate joint analyses of the expression of sets of genes. This identified differences in the gene regulatory processes caused directly or indirectly by zinc deficiency.

score plots A principal component score plot shows that PC1 separates the zinc deficient group from the others, whereas PC3 differentiates between the zinc adequate groups and the one where zinc was added back at stage two of the experiment. The loadings plot highlights in red the genes from the interferon alpha/beta signalling pathway and indicates that this immune response pathway is associated with the mechanism by which cells react to zinc deficiency.

Further details from: Claus-Dieter Mayer

Article date 2013

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Human Health & Nutrition